Clive Davis reflects on his legendary music industry career
Whispers from Golden Ear
Clive Davis. The music genius who manufactured Whitney, Aretha, Alicia, Springsteen, Joplin, Simon & Garfunkel, Taylor Swift, John Mellencamp. And now he’s on the cover of People.
So ask if we who loved Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra — normal type songs — will we never have that again?
“Decades change music. Currently hip-hop dominates. Also country and pop. But the biggest, notwithstanding Drake or Kendrick Lamar, is Taylor Swift.
“Who believed this could happen to me. At 18, I lost my parents within a year of each other. With $4,000 to my name, depending on the beneficence of others, I got an NYU scholarship and thought maybe I’d rise above my parents’ working class through law. Those years a Brooklyn kid either had to be a lawyer or a doctor. Three years of law and luck got me into a law firm that represented Columbia Records. I became chief counsel and that’s how I got into music.
“I’m now chief creative officer of Sony. All my Grammys are on their shelf. NYU just established a museum in my honor. Two floors. My whole life story. From signing Whitney to her passing. Our lives totally interacted. I not only signed her but brought her 18 songs for each album and we’d narrow down. Our ears were in sync with each other. Now I’m co-producing her biopic. Unknown British actress plays her. Stanley Tucci plays me.
“I only missed out on Meatloaf who seemed unlikely. Even other labels did not see him as an enduring artist. Also, but only in his early days, John Mellencamp. We later came together.”
Clive’s recent 90th birthday party drew Earth, Wind & Fire, Busta Rhymes, Lin-Manuel Miranda — plus another 600 names. And his favorite song? Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
And if he could, what would he say to his mom?
“I done good.”
Song of praise
On account of we’re talking music, here’s making more music:
Judy Collins sang for “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song” show at the Beacon on Sunday.
Collins also likes Bob Dylan. But “he didn’t deserve the 2016 Nobel for literature. He robbed a real poet.”
Meanwhile she’s also singing the praises of her new album “Spellbound.”
Now hear this
Ben Vereen to be honored with Broadway League’s Juneteenth Legacy Award. Not only just his career but also his humanitarian work for children in Ukraine. Also the 50th anniversary of “Pippin,” which gave Ben a Tony . . . Are stars different? Yes, if they twinkle. Once, Britney Spears demanded four folding chairs, a phone, a pack of Doritos plus indigestion pills. Also: Meryl Streep wanted a helicopter to schlep daily from her Connecticut home to the Princeton, NJ, set. When execs balked, she said move the shoot closer to her house. They did.
Down and out in showbiz when: Your 8-by-10 glossies hang in the post office. Thieves break into your house and leave something. The organist at your wedding has a monkey with a tin cup. A thrift shop refuses your clothes. And the authorities pick you up for wearing polyester.
Only in New York, kids, only in New York.