Clive Davis

Clive Jay Davis (born April 4, 1932) is an American record producer, A&R executive, music industry executive, and lawyer. He has won five Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer, in 2000.[1]

Clive Davis
Clive Davis.jpg
Davis in 2007
Clive Jay Davis

(1932-04-04) April 4, 1932 (age 89)
Alma materNew York University
Harvard Law School
OccupationRecord producer, music executive
Years active1965–present
Helen Cohen
(m. 1956; div. 1965)

Janet Adelberg
(m. 1965; div. 1985)
Children4, including Doug Davis

From 1967 to 1973, Davis was the president of Columbia Records. He was the founder and president of Arista Records from 1974 through 2000 until founding J Records. From 2002 until April 2008, Davis was the chair and CEO of the RCA Music Group (which included RCA Records, J Records, and Arista Records), chair and CEO of J Records, and chair and CEO of BMG North America.

Davis is credited with hiring a young recording artist, Tony Orlando, for Columbia in 1967. He has signed many artists that achieved significant success, including Janis Joplin, Laura Nyro, Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Billy Joel, Donovan, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Loggins & Messina, Ace Of Base, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, & Westlife. Davis is also credited with bringing Whitney Houston and Barry Manilow to prominence.[2]

As of 2018, Davis is the chief creative officer of Sony Music Entertainment.[3]

Early life and educationEdit

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

His mother died at age 47, and his father died the following year when Davis was still a teenager. He then moved in with his married sister, who lived in Bayside, Queens, New York City. [5]

He attended 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 yearsEdit

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. That same year, Davis hired 23 year old recording artist Tony Orlando as general manager of Columbia publishing subsidiary April-Blackwood Music; Orlando went on to become vice-president of Columbia/CBS Music and sign Barry Manilow in 1969.[11]

In June 1967, at the urging of his friend and business associate Lou Adler, Davis attended the Monterey Pop Festival.[12] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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. The accomplishment was mentioned in the 1979 Aerosmith song "No Surprize", where Steven Tyler sings, "Old Clive Davis said he's surely gonna make us a star, I'm gonna make you a star, just the way you are."[13] Starting on December 30, 1978,[14] 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."[15] One of the last bands Davis tried to sign to Columbia Records was the proto-punk band Death.[16] According to their documentary he was the only person who was interested in a black band doing rock music, but he asked them to change their name. They refused, as the name was a reflection of a personal event. The contract dissolved, and the band released their album on another label 35 years later.

Arista yearsEdit

After Davis was fired from CBS Records in 1973 for allegedly using company funds to bankroll his son's bar mitzvah,[17][18][19][20] Columbia Pictures then hired him to be a consultant for the company's Bell Records label. Davis took time out to write his memoirs and then founded Arista Records in 1974.[21][22][23] The company was named after New York City's secondary school honor society, of which Davis was a member.[citation needed]

At Arista, Davis signed Barry Manilow, followed by Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Patti Smith, Westlife, Al Jourgensen, The Outlaws, Eric Carmen, The Bay City Rollers, Exposé, Taylor Dayne, 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.[citation needed] He founded Arista Nashville which became the home to Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis, and Brad Paisley.[citation needed] Davis founded LaFace Records with L.A. Reid and Babyface.[citation needed] LaFace subsequently became the home of TLC, Usher, Outkast, Pink and Toni Braxton.[citation needed] He founded Bad Boy Records with Sean "Puffy" Combs and it became the home of the Notorious B.I.G., Combs, Mase, 112, and Faith Evans, although Davis would later admit that he never quite understood rap music.[citation needed] In 1998, Davis signed LFO from European Success. LFO charted #3 with "Summer Girls" in 1999, and went on to multiplatinum success.[citation needed]

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.[24]

J Records, RCA, Sony yearsEdit

Davis left Arista in 2000 and started J Records, an independent label with financial backing from Arista parent Bertelsmann Music Group, named with the middle initial of Davis and his four children.[25] 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.[26]

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,[27] 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.[28]

Awards and honorsEdit

As a producer, Davis has won four Grammy Awards.

Davis also received the Grammy Trustees Award in 2000[29] and the President's Merit Award at the 2009 Grammys.[30] In 2011, the 200-seat theater at the Grammy Museum was named the "Clive Davis Theater".[31]

In 2000, Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the non-performers category.[32]

In 2000, Davis received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[33]

In 2015, he was recognized by Equality Forum as one of the 31 Icons of the LGBT History Month.[34]

Davis was a 2018 Honoree at The New Jewish Home's Eight Over Eighty Gala.

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 lifeEdit

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 1960), a prominent media investment banker,[35] Lauren (born 1962), Mitchell (born 1970), and Doug Davis (born 1974), a music executive and Grammy award-winning record producer.[36] Davis has eight grandchildren.[37][38]

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.[39]

Further readingEdit

  • 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


  1. ^ "Clive Davis | Rock & Roll Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2021-04-19.
  2. ^ "Q&A: Tony Orlando talks the Beatles, Elvis, and Meghan Trainor". 6 April 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b Lauria, Peter (October 10, 2008). "Sony Music turns to Davis for Hit$". New York Post. NYP Holdings, Inc. Archived from the original on May 31, 2009. 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. ^ a b c d 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. ^ Knopper, Steve. "Tony Orlando still hasn't needed that backup career option, despite his mother's advice". Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  12. ^ Clive Davis with Anthony DeCurtis, The Soundtrack of My Life (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2013), 64-69 and 125. ISBN 1476714789
  13. ^ "Aerosmith Biography: From Clive Davis to Guitar Hero: Aerosmith". Max's Kansas City. September 26, 2008. Archived from the original on September 19, 2008. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
  14. ^ "Grateful Dead Live at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA on 1978-12-30: Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". 30 December 1978. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  15. ^ "Jack Straw". Retrieved September 25, 2013.
  16. ^ Bliss, Abi (2009-02-09). "Death: The Detroit band that never sold out". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  17. ^ "Clive Davis: Information from". Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  18. ^ "Changes Made in CBS Guard". Billboard. June 18, 1966. Retrieved August 23, 2012.
  19. ^ "Let CBS Tell Its Own Ugly Story". The 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 ...
  20. ^ Fong-Torres, Ben; Fong-Torres, Ben (July 5, 1973). "Clive Davis Ousted from Columbia; Payola Coverup Charged".
  21. ^ Stokes, Geoffrey (April 24, 1977). "Clive's Comeback (Published 1977)". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Anson, Robert Sam. "Clive Davis Fights Back". Vanity Fair.
  23. ^ "Clive Davis' impact on music".
  24. ^ "Recording Industry Association of America". Archived from the original on December 8, 2006. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  25. ^ Segal, David (March 16, 2001). "The Man with the Golden Ear". The Washington Post.
  26. ^ "CLIVE DAVIS WINS WORLD TOP 100 A&R OF 2001". HitQuarters. January 5, 2002. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  27. ^ Moody, Nekesa Mumbi (April 18, 2008). "Clive Davis replaced by Barry Weiss as BMG head". Gannett Co. Inc. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
  28. ^ "RCA's Peter Edge, Tom Corson on the Shuttering of Jive, J and Arista". Billboard. October 7, 2011. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  29. ^ Basham, David (December 12, 2000). "Beach Boys, Bennett, Who To Win Lifetime Achievement Grammys". MTV.
  30. ^ Gundersen, Edna (February 4, 2009). "The official label on Clive Davis' famed gala this year: Grammy". USA Today.
  31. ^ Chmielewski, Dawn C. (February 13, 2013). "CBS stokes Grammy Awards excitement with online extras". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 14, 2021. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  32. ^ Morgan, Laura (March 9, 2000). "Hall Monitor". Entertainment Weekly.
  33. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  34. ^ Malcolm Lazin (August 20, 2015). "Op-ed: Here Are the 31 Icons of 2015's Gay History Month". Retrieved 2015-08-21.
  35. ^ "Meet Fred Davis, One of the Industry's Biggest Dealmakers (And, Yes, Clive's Son)". Billboard.
  36. ^ "Harry Belafonte, Rosanne Cash, Karrin Allyson Celebrate 'Centennial Tribute to Women's Suffrage': Exclusive". Billboard.
  37. ^ "Clive Davis - Clive Davis' Grandkids Unaware About His Bisexuality". February 19, 2013.
  38. ^ Strauss, Alix (October 4, 2019). "On Again, Off Again, and With a Nudge, Now On Forever (Published 2019)". The New York Times.
  39. ^ "Clive Davis Comes Out of the Closet on 'Katie'". The Hollywood Reporter. February 18, 2013.

External linksEdit

Business positions
Preceded by
President of CBS Records
Succeeded by
Goddard Lieberson
Preceded by
Founder & President of Arista Records
Succeeded by
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