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Clive Davis

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Clive Davis

Clive Davis

Photo by Evan Agostini / Getty Images

Harvard Law School Student:

Born April 4, 1932, Clive Davis grew up in Brooklyn, New York as part of a working class Jewish family. The name Clive, given by his mother, came from a favorite British actor. After graduating magna cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa from New York University, Clive Davis received a scholarship to attend Harvard Law School. He graduated in 1956 ready to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a practicing lawyer.

Columbia Records:

Clive Davis began his career with a small firm, but a year later the firm lost its major client and Davis was laid off. He was then hired by Rosenman, Colin, Kaye, Petschek and Freund. One of their major clients was CBS, owner of Columbia Records. The record label offered Clive Davis a position in their legal department. One of his first successes at the label was the renegotiation of Bob Dylan's contract. Clive Davis discovered he loved music and his career path was set.

Quote from Clive Davis:

From the Harvard Law Bulletin on what he likes best about his job:

"Certainly that first appraisal, to be able to spot a unique talent and say yes, and then to see that artist become a worldwide success. There's a lot of steps in between, you know. So it's hard to leave out the process. But the discovery is the most exciting."

Ousted With a Guilty Plea:

By 1967 Clive Davis became president of CBS Records, the parent of Columbia. He discovered and signed many legends of contemporary pop music including Janis Joplin, Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Billy Joel, and Pink Floyd. Columbia Records soared with its new ventures in pop and rock music, but, by 1973, things turned sour at the corporate level and Clive Davis was fired in the midst of investigations about financial wrongdoing. He gave a guilty plea to tax evasion charges and was forced to pay a $10,000 fine.

Arista Records:

The CBS corporate brass had no interest in completely severing ties with Clive Davis, and, in 1974, he was offered the presidency of the music division of Columbia Pictures. Within a year Davis had combined the division's record labels into one and renamed the enterprise Arista after his secondary school honor society. Barry Manilow was one of the first successful artists on the label. Clive Davis grew Arista into one of the music industry's most successful labels with landmark albums by such artists as Whitney Houston, Air Supply, Aretha Franklin, and Annie Lennox.

The Year 2000 - A Turning Point:

In the year 2000, amid reports of disagreements with his parent conglomerate BMG, Clive Davis was ousted from the leadership of Arista and replaced by L.A. Reid. The action was taken despite public statments on the behalf of Davis by such music legends as Bruce Springsteen and Aretha Franklin. The same year Clive Davis received 3 Grammy Awards, one for lifetime achievement and 2 for producing Santana's landmark Supernatural album. At the peak of his career it appeared that Davis had been forced into early retirement.

J Records:

As it turned out, BMG was not interested in permanently severing ties with Clive Davis. The corporation invested $150 million in a new venture, the label J Records, named after Davis' middle name Jay. With a 50% ownership in the label, Clive Davis soon set about doing what he does best, generating hit records and discovering hot new artists. Among his signings to the label were Alicia Keys and Busta Rhymes. J Records also helped revitalize the careers of music industry legends Luther Vandross and Rod Stewart.

Inducted Into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

In 2000, Clive Davis reached another career milestone. He was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in the non-performer category. The induction was presented by punk rock legend Patti Smith. Her career was launched into high gear when she was signed by Arista Records and her landmark debut album Horses was released in 1975.

RCA Records Group and American Idol:

In 2003 BMG promoted Clive Davis further up the ladder. He was put in charge of the RCA Records Group which included both the RCA and Arista record labels. Eventually Davis was made CEO of BMG North America. In his role as head of RCA Records, Clive Davis has been a key figure in signing and helping mold the early careers of American Idol alumni. One of the most recent controversies involving Clive Davis has been public battles with Kelly Clarkson over her choice of music to record for the album My December.

Key Albums From Clive Davis' Career:

  • 1980 - Air Supply - Lost In Love - Executive Producer
  • 1985 - Whitney Houston - Whitney Houston - Executive Producer
  • 1985 - Aretha Franklin - Who's Zoomin' Who - Executive Producer
  • 1987 - Whitney Houston - Whitney - Executive Producer
  • 1989 - Barry Manilow - Barry Manilow - Executive Producer
  • 1989 - Taylor Dayne - Can't Fight Fate - Executive Producer
  • 1990 - Whitney Houston - I'm Your Baby Tonight - Executive Producer
  • 1992 - Soundtrack - The Bodyguard - Executive Producer
  • 1992 - Expose - Expose - Executive Producer
  • 1998 - Aretha Franklin - A Rose Is Still a Rose - Executive Producer
  • 1999 - Enrique Iglesias - Enrique - Executive Producer
  • 1999 - LFO - LFO - Producer
  • 1999 - Santana - Supernatural - Producer
  • 2001 - Alicia Keys - Songs In A Minor - Executive Producer
  • 2001 - Luther Vandross - Luther Vandross - Producer
  • 2002 - Rod Stewart - It Had to Be You: The Great American Songbook - Producer
  • 2002 - Mario - Mario - Executive Producer
  • 2003 - Kelly Clarkson - Thankful - Executive Producer
  • 2003 - Clay Aiken - Measure of a Man - Producer
  • 2003 - Ruben Studdard - Soulful - Producer
  • 2004 - Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway - Executive Producer
  • 2005 - Bo Bice - The Real Thing - Producer
  • 2006 - Barry Manilow - Greatest Songs of the Fifties - Producer
  • 2006 - Paula DeAnda - Paula DeAnda - Executive Producer

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