Clive Jay Davis (born April 4, 1932) is an American record producer and music industry executive. He has won five Grammy Awards and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer.
From 1967 to 1973, Davis was the president of Columbia Records. He was the founder and president of Arista Records from 1975 through 2000 until founding J Records. From 2002 until April 2008, Davis was the chairman and CEO of the RCA Music Group (which included RCA Records, J Records and Arista Records), chairman and CEO of J Records, and chairman and CEO of BMG North America. Currently Davis is the chief creative officer of Sony Music Entertainment. He currently plays a part in the careers of TLC, Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, Alicia Keys, Barry Manilow, Christina Aguilera, Carlos Santana, Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis and Jennifer Hudson. Davis is credited with bringing Whitney Houston to prominence.
Davis was born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, to a Jewish family, the son of Herman and Florence Davis. His father was an electrician and salesman. Davis was raised in the middle-class neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
His mother died at age 47, and his father died the following year when Davis was only a teenager, leaving him an orphan with no money. He then moved in with his married sister in Bayside, Queens, New York City, New York. He received a full scholarship to New York University College of Arts and Science, where he graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1953. He received a full scholarship to Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Board of Student Advisers and graduated in 1956.
Columbia/CBS Records years
Davis practiced law in a small firm in New York, then moved on to the firm of Rosenman, Colin, Kaye, Petschek, and Freund two years later, where partner Ralph Colin had CBS as a client. Davis was subsequently hired by a former colleague at the firm, Harvey Schein, to became assistant counsel of CBS subsidiary Columbia Records at age 28, and then general counsel the following year.
As part of a reorganization of Columbia Records Group, group president Goddard Lieberson appointed Davis as administrative vice president and general manager in 1965. In 1966, CBS formed the Columbia-CBS Group which reorganized CBS's recorded music operations into CBS Records with Davis heading the new unit. The next year, Davis was appointed president and became interested in the newest generation of folk rock and rock and roll. One of his earliest pop signings was the British folk-rock musician Donovan, who enjoyed a string of successful hit singles and albums released in the U.S. on the Epic Records label.
In June 1967, at the urging of his friend and business associate Lou Adler, Davis attended the Monterey Pop Festival. He immediately signed Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Columbia went on to sign Laura Nyro, Electric Flag, Santana, The Chambers Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Billy Joel, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Loggins & Messina, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd (for rights to release their material outside of Europe). The company, which had previously avoided rock music (its few rock acts prior to the Davis presidency included Dion DiMucci, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, and Paul Revere and the Raiders), doubled its market share in three years.
One of the most commercially successful recordings released during Davis' tenure at Columbia was Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden," in late 1970. It was Davis who insisted "Rose Garden" be the country singer's next single release. The song reached No.1 in 16 countries around the world and remained the biggest selling album by a female country artist for 27 years.
In 1972, Davis signed Earth, Wind & Fire to Columbia Records. One of his most recognized accomplishments was signing the Boston group Aerosmith to Columbia Records in the early 1970s at New York City's Max's Kansas City, which was mentioned in the 1979 Aerosmith song "No Surprize", where Steven Tyler sings, "Old Clive Davis said he's surely gonna make you a star, just the way you are." Starting on December 30, 1978, Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead occasionally changed the lyrics of the Dead standard "Jack Straw" in concert from "we used to play for silver, now we play for life," to "we used to play for silver, now we play for Clive."
After Davis was fired from CBS Records for allegedly using company funds to bankroll his son's bar mitzvah, Columbia Pictures (at the time unrelated to Columbia Records) hired him to be a consultant for the company's record and music operations. After taking time out to write his memoirs, he founded the company Arista Records (named after New York City's secondary school honor society of which he was a member, and it replaced Columbia Pictures' Bell Records label).
At Arista, Davis signed Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Patti Smith, Al Jourgensen, The Outlaws, Eric Carmen, ExposÃ©, Ace of Base, The Right Profile, Air Supply, Ray Parker, Jr. and Raydio, and Alicia Keys, and he brought Carly Simon, Grateful Dead, The Kinks, Gil Scott-Heron (on whose episode of TV One's Unsung Davis was interviewed) and Lou Reed to the label. He founded Arista Nashville which became the home to Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis, and Brad Paisley. Davis founded LaFace Records with L.A. Reid and Babyface. LaFace subsequently became the home of TLC, Usher, Outkast, P!nk and Toni Braxton. He founded Bad Boy Records with Sean Combs and it became the home of the Notorious B.I.G., Puffy Combs, Mase, 112, and Faith Evans, although Davis would later admit that he never quite understood rap music. In 1998, Davis signed LFO from European Success. LFO charted #1 with "Summer Girls" in 1999, and went on to multiplatinum success.
Davis was made aware of Cissy Houston's daughter Whitney Houston after he saw the Houstons perform at a New York City nightclub. Impressed with what he heard, Davis signed her to Arista. Houston became one of the biggest selling artists in music history under the guidance of Davis at Arista.
J, RCA, and Sony years
Davis left Arista in 2000 and started J Records, an independent label with financial backing from Arista parent Bertelsmann Music Group. BMG would buy a majority stake in J Records in 2002, and Davis would become president and CEO of the larger RCA Music Group.
Davis' continued success in breaking new artists was recognised by the music industry A&R site HitQuarters when the executive was named "world's No.1 A&R of 2001" based on worldwide chart data for that year.
In 2004, BMG merged with Sony Music Entertainment to form Sony BMG. With the assets of the former CBS Records (renamed Sony Music Entertainment in 1991) now under Sony's ownership, the joint venture would mean a return of sorts for Davis to his former employer. Davis remained with RCA Label Group until 2008, when he was named chief creative officer for Sony BMG.
Davis was elevated to Chief Creative Officer of Sony Music Entertainment, a title he currently holds, as part of a corporate restructuring when Sony BMG became Sony Music Entertainment in late 2008 when BMG sold its shares to Sony. Arista Records and J Records, which were both founded by Davis, were dissolved in October 2011 through the restructuring of RCA Records. All artists under those labels were moved to RCA Records.
Awards and honors
As a producer, Davis has won four Grammy Awards.
- 2009: Best R&B Album â" Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Hudson
- 2006: Best Pop Vocal Album â" Breakaway, Kelly Clarkson
- 2000: Album of the Year â" Supernatural, Santana
- 2000: Best Rock Album â" Supernatural, Santana
Davis also received the Grammy Trustees Award in 2000 and the President's Merit Award at the 2009 Grammys. In 2011, the 200-seat theater at the Grammy Museum was named the "Clive Davis Theater".
In 2000, Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the non-performers category.
An alumnus of New York University, Davis is a significant benefactor to it. The recorded music division of its Tisch School of the Arts, is named after him: the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.
Davis has been married and divorced twice. He was married to Helen Cohen from 1956 to 1965 and to Janet Adelberg from 1965 to 1985. He has four children: Fred (born 1959), Lauren (born 1962), Mitchell (born 1970), and Doug Davis (born 1974), a music executive and sports agent. He also has six grandchildren.
In 2013, Davis publicly came out as bisexual in his autobiography The Soundtrack of My Life. On the daytime talk show Katie, he told host Katie Couric that he hoped his coming out would lead to "greater understanding" of bisexuality. Since 2004, Davis has been in a relationship with a man, which followed a 14-year relationship with a male doctor.
- Davis, Clive (1975). Clive: Inside the Record Business, William Morrow & Company, Inc. ISBN 0688028721
- Davis, Clive (2013). The Soundtrack of My Life, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1476714789
- Official website
- Clive Davis at the Internet Movie Database
- Clive Davis at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame