By Kaye Foley
It’s not Grammy weekend without Clive Davis and the Recording Academy’s pre-Grammy Gala the night before. But who is Clive Davis?
The iconic music executive has worked with the biggest names in the business, including Janis Joplin, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Jennifer Hudson, and many more.
Davis grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. He attended New York University and Harvard Law School. In the ’60s, he worked as the assistant legal counsel for Columbia Records before becoming the general counsel, and he eventually became head of the company.
After six years as president of Columbia Records, Davis was fired in 1973 for allegedly using company funds for his personal use. But he continued to shape the music industry — he went on to found Arista Records in 1974, J Records in 2000, and partnered with L.A. Reid and Babyface to launch LaFace Records and Sean Combs to create Bad Boy Records. Now he’s the chief creative officer at Sony Music Entertainment.
He has won four Grammy Awards, a World Music Awards’ Outstanding Contribution to the Music Industry Award, and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But throughout his legendary career, Davis has made headlines for more than his impact on the music business. His feud with Kelly Clarkson over her 2007 album My December went public; in 2012, Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room only hours before she was to attend Davis’ pre-Grammy party, and in 2013, the twice-married Davis came out as bisexual in his autobiography, “The Soundtrack of My Life.”
A documentary about his life, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, will open the Tribeca Film Festival in April. So the next time you see Davis on the red carpet, at least you can say, “Now I Get It.”