NY Times: After a Half-Century in Music, Clive Davis Is Still in Love

NY Times: After a Half-Century in Music, Clive Davis Is Still in Love

By Ben Sisario

In the Manhattan office of Clive Davis, there are reminders everywhere of his work with superstar musicians: on the wall, photos of Mr. Davis with Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, and, on a table, a large amethyst crystal given to him by his closest protégée: “Clive,” reads an inscription, “Peace and Love. Whitney.”

Mr. Davis, 85, has been one of the dons of the music business for half a century, and is now the chief creative officer of Sony Music. His career is the subject of a documentary, “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives,” directed by Chris Perkel, which will open the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday, with a screening and a concert at Radio City Music Hall. The names on the bill, all artists Mr. Davis has worked with over his career, show some of his breadth, and his pull: Ms. Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, Dionne Warwick, Carly Simon, Barry Manilow and the band Earth, Wind & Fire.

In a recent interview, Mr. Davis discussed his improbable entry into the record business; why he never stops worrying; and how he dealt with some of the setbacks in his career, like being fired from Columbia Records and implicated in a payola scandal that he says unfairly smeared him. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.

You started as a lawyer, and early in the film you say, “I knew nothing about music.” How do you account for the career you’ve had?

Through both luck and fate, I discovered on the job that I had a natural gift that I never knew I had.

The gift is to determine who could be a long-lasting, major star. And from a repertoire point of view, those songs that are capable of becoming first a hit record — how they could be arranged, sung, performed — and hopefully be one of those very few hit records that become standards.

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