Clive Davis is more than just a living legend- his influence has defined music for the last five decades. He gave us Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Carlos Santana, Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd (in America), and Earth, Wind & Fire, to name a few. And he didn’t stop there- throughout the years, he has continued to sign top artists like Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Barry Manilow, Brad Paisley, Alicia Keys and The Grateful Dead. He even founded Bad Boy Records alongside Sean Combs and LaFace Records with Babyface and L.A. Reid.
In short, he’s an unstoppable force that the industry calls “The Golden Ear.”
While reading his biography, I was positively captivated. Clive has defied all odds to become the most successful man in the music industry. He was born into a middle-class family in Brooklyn, New York, and nothing more than his drive and aptitude earned him a full scholarship at NYU before receiving a law degree from Harvard University.
His intention might have never been music, but I have a firm belief that music finds you. You don’t have to be a creator for the passion to flow through your veins. When Davis found himself President of Columbia Records in 1967 with no background in the music industry, he not only rose to the occasion- he shattered records, defined an era and earned the respect of an entire industry, both artists and executives.
Last night, I attended Clive’s screening of his new feature-length documentary “Soundtrack of Our Lives,” at the ArcLight Hollywood, where he also did a Q&A afterwards. The film was breathtaking- by the time you left the theater, you felt like you knew the most powerful man in music. Better yet, you liked him…a lot. Clive’s twinkling eyes and astute taste are a wicked combination, and while he’s incredibly powerful, there’s a humbleness to him that makes him feel approachable.
The film is a musical education beginning with the late 1960s through the death of Whitney Houston, a pinnacle moment in Clive’s professional and personal life. The vintage video clips of artists like Springsteen, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston are worth the price of admission alone, giving us insight to how well-loved Clive has been throughout his career. The way he treated his artists and colleagues was also a huge takeaway for me- he leads with respect and an unmatchable passion. Notably in the documentary, a few of his artists attested to how attentive he was, always making them feel like a priority.
And last night, as dozens gathered around him to have a moment with Clive, he never rushed. As he shook hands, he listened to people’s stories of gratitude and awe, only politely declining photographs so he could speak with more people.
And right there, in that theater, I witnessed first-hand the magic of Clive Davis.
You need to see this documentary- it'll be the best thing you've watched all year. Available on Apple Music on Oct. 3.