Clive Davis

Clive Davis

Clive Davis in New York City on November 13, 2007
Born Clive Jay Davis
(1932-04-04) April 4, 1932
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Nationality American
Alma mater New York University
Harvard Law School
Occupation Record producer, Music executive
Years active 1965present
Spouse(s) Helen Cohen (m. 1956; div. 1965)[1]
Janet Adelberg (m. 1965; div. 1985)[1]
Children Fred (b. 1960)[1]
Lauren (b. 1962)[1]
Mitchell (b. 1970)[1]
Doug Davis (b. 1974)[1]

Clive Jay Davis (born April 4, 1932) is an American record producer, A&R executive 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.[2]

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.[3] 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 also credited with bringing Whitney Houston and Barry Manilow to prominence.

Early life and education

Davis was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family,[1][4] the son of Herman and Florence Davis. His father was an electrician and salesman.[5] Davis was raised in the middle-class neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.[5]

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.[5] He then moved in with his married sister in Bayside, Queens, New York City, New York.[5] He received a full scholarship to New York University College of Arts and Science, where he graduated[5] magna cum laude, with a degree in Political science [6]and 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.[7]


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 become assistant counsel of CBS subsidiary Columbia Records at age 28, and then general counsel the following year.[8]

As part of a reorganization of Columbia Records Group, group president Goddard Lieberson appointed Davis as administrative vice president and general manager in 1965.[9] In 1966, CBS formed the Columbia-CBS Group which reorganized CBS's recorded music operations into CBS Records with Davis heading the new unit.[10] 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 and the Holding Company, and Columbia went on to sign Laura Nyro, The 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."[11] Starting on December 30, 1978,[12] 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 acid, now we play for Clive."[13]

Arista years

After Davis was fired from CBS Records for allegedly using company funds to bankroll his son's bar mitzvah,[14][15][16] 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 Barry Manilow, Arista's first mega super seller, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Patti Smith, Al Jourgensen, The Outlaws, Eric Carmen, Exposé, 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, Jermaine Stewart, 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.[17]

J Records, RCA, 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.[18]

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,[19] 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.[3] 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.[20]

Awards and honors

As a producer, Davis has won four Grammy Awards.

Davis also received the Grammy Trustees Award in 2000[21] and the President's Merit Award at the 2009 Grammys.[22] In 2011, the 200-seat theater at the Grammy Museum was named the "Clive Davis Theater".[23]

In 2000, Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the non-performers category.[24]

In 2015, he was recognized by Equality Forum in 2015 as one of the 31 Icons of the LGBT History Month.[25]

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.

Personal life

Davis has been married and divorced twice.[1] He was married to Helen Cohen from 1956 to 1965 and to Janet Adelberg from 1965 to 1985.[1] He has four children: Fred (born 1960), Lauren (born 1962), Mitchell (born 1970), and Doug Davis (born 1974), a music executive and sports agent.[1] He also has seven grandchildren.[26]

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.[1][27] Since 2004, Davis has been in a relationship with a man, which followed a 14-year relationship with a male doctor.[1]

Further reading


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 McCormack, David (February 19, 2013). "'I'm bisexual': Twice married music industry legend Clive Davis reveals he's had relationships with men since the late '70s". Daily Mail.
  2. "Clive Davis page at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame".
  3. 1 2 Lauria, Peter (October 10, 2008). "Sony Music turns to Davis for Hit$". New York Post. NYP Holdings, Inc. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  4. Gottlieb, Robert (June 20, 2013). "At the Top of Pop". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Hollander, Jason (Fall 2011). "The Man With the Platinum Ears" (PDF). NYU Alumni Magazine. pp. 33–36.
  6. Davis, Clive (2013). The Soundtrack of My Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. pp. 13–14. ISBN 9781476714790.
  7. "Clive Davis: Pop music's elder statesman". CBS News. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  8. Dannen, Frederic (1990). Hit Men. Times Books. pp. 66-67. ISBN 0-8129-1658-1
  9. "Billboard". August 7, 1965. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  10. "Billboard". June 18, 1966. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  11. "Aerosmith Biography: From Clive Davis to Guitar Hero: Aerosmith". Max's Kansas City. September 26, 2008. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
  12. "Grateful Dead Live at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA on 1978-12-30: Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  13. "Jack Straw". Retrieved September 25, 2013.
  14. "Clive Davis: Information from". Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  15. "Changes Made in CBS Guard". Billboard. June 18, 1966. Retrieved August 23, 2012.
  16. "Let CBS Tell Its Own Ugly Story". New York Times News Service. June 22, 1973. Retrieved August 23, 2012. Beginning what may be the second most massive cover-up of the past months, CBS fired its records division president, Clive Davis ...
  17. "Recording Industry Association of America". Archived from the original on December 8, 2006. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  18. "CLIVE DAVIS WINS WORLD TOP 100 A&R OF 2001". HitQuarters. January 5, 2002. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  19. Moody, Nekesa Mumbi (April 18, 2008). "Clive Davis replaced by Barry Weiss as BMG head". Gannett Co. Inc. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
  20. "RCA's Peter Edge, Tom Corson on the Shuttering of Jive, J and Arista". Billboard. October 7, 2011. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  21. Basham, David (December 12, 2000). "Beach Boys, Bennett, Who To Win Lifetime Achievement Grammys". MTV.
  22. Gundersen, Edna (February 4, 2009). "The official label on Clive Davis' famed gala this year: Grammy". USA Today.
  23. Chmielewski, Dawn C. (February 13, 2013). "CBS stokes Grammy Awards excitement with online extras". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  24. Morgan, Laura (March 9, 2000). "Hall Monitor". Entertainment Weekly.
  25. Malcolm Lazin (August 20, 2015). "Op-ed: Here Are the 31 Icons of 2015's Gay History Month". Retrieved 2015-08-21.
  26. "Clive Davis - Clive Davis' Grandkids Unaware About His Bisexuality". February 19, 2013.
  27. "Clive Davis Comes Out of the Closet on 'Katie'". The Hollywood Reporter. February 18, 2013.

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
Goddard Lieberson
President of CBS Records
Succeeded by
Goddard Leiberson
Preceded by
Founder & President of Arista Records
Succeeded by
Antonio "L.A." Reid
Preceded by
Founder & Chief Executive Officer of J Records
2000 to April 2004
Succeeded by
none (J Records began functioning under the RCA Music Group)
Preceded by
Chief Executive Officer of RCA Music Group
2002 to April 2008
Succeeded by
Barry Weiss (RCA/Jive Label Group)
Preceded by
Chief Creative Officer of Sony Music Entertainment
April 2008-present
Succeeded by
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