Made this thread to post everything Whitney-related.
After a Half-Century in Music, Clive Davis Is Still in Love
Credit Bryan Derballa for The New York Times
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.
Did you have any doubts about your ability to do that?
I’ve always said that I get paid a lot of money to worry. It’s worrying until you’ve come to the right conclusion, and when you’ve come to that conclusion, you move.
You see it in the film, with “I Will Always Love You,” where [the producer] David Foster called me up, and right away I said, “I absolutely love it.” And as he kept sending more versions of it, it was sounding slick. It was sounding less pure. And you anguish over it. There was a big movie coming out, and we didn’t have a single. But then you just reach down and say, it’s D-Day. And I went with the first, rough version. It is that natural, hearing it and just knowing that this is what will give people goose pimples.
Simon and Garfunkel were aghast that I chose “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to be the first single. Yes, it was a ballad; yes, it was lengthy. But you’ve got to know when you have a home run. You can’t play everything by the rules.
Barry Manilow, who was your first artist at Arista, had wanted a career as a songwriter, but most of his hits were written by other people. In the film, you say the two of you reached a compromise about that. But in your memoir you were harsher, telling him, “Well, if you were Irving Berlin, we would know it by now!”
That dialogue occurred right before he went to RCA. After one album of working with another team, he viewed his entire career differently, and he came back.
We had to coexist with him being a writer, and it ended up very felicitously. When you’re a pop artist, you need to have hits on every album. You hear him in the film say that every song I gave him was a hit. For his own songs — “Copacabana,” “This One’s for You” — he’s inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
There were artists like Melissa Manchester. She was on her way to a platinum-plus career, and she said, “I want to be Joni Mitchell and I want to write my own material.” So, of course, you allow that to happen. You have to have respect for the artist and the kind of career they want.
But that’s only in the entertainment pop world, where either you have a hit or you don’t. It’s not “the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” When you’re a Patti Smith, when you’re a Bruce Springsteen, when you’re a rock artist, I would never think of submitting material.
After you were fired from Columbia Records in 1973 and investigated, you lost your license to practice law. But decades later you studied to pass the bar again. Why was it so important to do that?
It was a very tough period to go through, and to the extent that the exoneration did not get the exposure that the original headlines did, I feel gratified that the actual record is getting out there.
For myself, I wanted to bring up to date the fact that there should be no question mark on the record. Plus, I love school and I love exams, and I had no problem doing it.
You turned 85 recently. Are you still hunting for hits?
Yes. I’m looking for hits for Jennifer Hudson; looking for hits for a new artist, Avery Wilson; and coming up with a concept album for Johnny Mathis, who still sings great. It’s called “Johnny Mathis Sings the Great New American Songbook.”
I still love it. And whether it’s doing those albums, or doing my Grammy party every year, it’s a great feeling. I got into this totally by luck, and it’s just wonderfully fulfilling. [Knocks on desk.]Source: New York Times Online
As usual, the input that Kevin Costner had regarding IWALY is not mentioned at all. Oh Clive ...
David Foster: 'Bodyguard' Anthem, 'I Will Always Love You,' Almost Didn't Happen (ABC News)