Clive Jay Davis (born April 4, 1932) is an American record producer, A&R executive, record 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
Davis in 2023
Clive Jay Davis

(1932-04-04) April 4, 1932 (age 92)
EducationErasmus Hall High School, Brooklyn
Alma materNew York University
Harvard Law School
Occupation(s)Record producer, record executive
Years active1965–present
Helen Cohen
(m. 1956; div. 1965)
Janet Adelberg
(m. 1965; div. 1985)

From 1967 to 1973, Davis was the president of Columbia Records. He was founder and president of Arista Records from 1974 through 2000 until founding J Records. From 2002 until April 2008, he was 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 who achieved significant success, including Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Laura Nyro, Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Billy Joel, Donovan, Bay City Rollers, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Loggins and Messina, Ace of Base, Aerosmith, Olivia Longott, Pink Floyd and Westlife. He 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 education


Davis was born in Brooklyn, New York City, to Jewish parents,[4] Herman and Florence Davis. His father was an electrician and salesman.[5] Davis was raised in Crown Heights, Brooklyn[5] and attended Erasmus Hall High School.[6]

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.[5]

Davis attended New York University College of Arts & Science, where he graduated[5] magna cum laude with a degree in political science[7] 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.[8]



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.[9]

As part of a reorganization of Columbia Records Group, group president Goddard Lieberson appointed Davis as administrative vice president and general manager in 1965.[10] In 1966, CBS formed the Columbia-CBS Group which reorganized CBS's recorded music operations into CBS Records with Davis heading the new unit.[11]

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 signed Barry Manilow in 1969.[12]

In June 1967, Davis attended the Monterey Pop Festival after his friends and business associate, Lou Adler, convinced him.[13] 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 and Messina, Aerosmith, and Pink Floyd (for rights to release their material outside of Europe).[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 that "Rose Garden" be the country singer's next single release. The song crossed over and was a No. 1 hit in 16 countries worldwide. "Rose Garden" 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."[14] Starting on December 30, 1978,[15] 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."[16]

One of the last bands Davis tried to sign to Columbia Records was the proto-punk band Death.[17]

Arista years


After Davis was fired from CBS Records in 1973 for allegedly using company funds to bankroll his son's bar mitzvah,[18][11][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 that name, of which Davis was a member.[24]

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, Air Supply, Ray Parker Jr., Raydio, and Alicia Keys, and he brought Carly Simon, Melissa Manchester, 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 co-founded Arista Nashville in 1989 with Tim DuBois, which became the home to Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis, and Brad Paisley.[25]

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., Craig Mack, 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]

During the Arista years, he set up his own production company Clive Davis Entertainment, for a two-year first-look agreement with movie studio Tri-Star Pictures in 1987.[26]

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.[27]

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, named with the middle initial of Davis and his four children.[28] 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.[29]

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,[30] 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.[31]

Awards and honors


As a producer, Davis has won four Grammy Awards.[32]

Award Year Artist Results
Grammy Award for Album of the Year 1994 The Bodyguard by Whitney Houston Won
Grammy Award for Album of the Year 2000 Supernatural by Santana Won
Grammy Award for Best Rock Album 2000 Supernatural by Santana Won
Grammy Award for Best R&B Album 2009 Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Hudson Won

Davis also received the Grammy Trustees Award in 2000[33] and the President's Merit Award at the 2009 Grammys.[34] In 2011, the 200-seat theater at the Grammy Museum was named the "Clive Davis Theater".[35]

In 2000, Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the non-performers category.[36] The same year, he received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[37]

In 2015, he was recognized by Equality Forum as one of the 31 Icons of the LGBT History Month.[38]

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

Charity and other


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.

Davis was portrayed by Oscar nominated actor, Stanley Tucci, in Sony Pictures's Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody – a biopic about the life and music of Houston. Davis also served as a producer on the film.[39]

Personal life


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,[40] Lauren (born 1962), an entertainment attorney and arts professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Mitchell (born 1970), and Doug Davis (born 1974), a music executive and Grammy award-winning record producer.[41] Davis has eight grandchildren.[42][43]

In 2013, Davis publicly came out as bisexual in his autobiography The Soundtrack of My Life.[44] On the daytime talk show Katie, he told host Katie Couric that he hoped his coming out would lead to "greater understanding" of bisexuality.[45] The autobiography was the basis for the two-hour documentary Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives.


  • Davis, Clive (1975). Clive: Inside the Record Business. with James Willwerth. William Morrow and Company. ISBN 978-0-688-02872-5.
  • Davis, Clive (2013). The Soundtrack of My Life. with Anthony DeCurtis. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4767-1478-3.


  1. ^ "Clive Davis | Rock & Roll Hall of Fame". Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  2. ^ "Q&A: Tony Orlando talks the Beatles, Elvis, and Meghan Trainor". Vancouver Sun. April 6, 2016. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Lauria, Peter (October 10, 2008). "Sony Music turns to Davis for Hit$". New York Post. 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. ^ "Class of 1960 – and from other classes ...", Erasmus Hall High School
  7. ^ Davis 2013, pp. 13–14.
  8. ^ "Clive Davis: Pop music's elder statesman". CBS News. June 4, 2012. Retrieved January 5, 2023.
  9. ^ Dannen, Frederic (1990). Hit Men. Times Books. pp. 66-67; ISBN 0-8129-1658-1
  10. ^ "Columbia Reshuffles Brass; Gallagher, Davis Promoted". Billboard. August 7, 1965. p. 3. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  11. ^ a b "Lieberson to Helm Group; Other Changes Made in the CBS Guard". Billboard. June 18, 1966. p. 10. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  12. ^ Knopper, Steve (July 23, 2015). "Tony Orlando still hasn't needed that backup career option, despite his mother's advice". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  13. ^ Davis 2013, pp. 64–69, 125.
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ "Grateful Dead Live at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA on 1978-12-30; Reviews: reviewers Augy and DeadRed1971". December 30, 1978. Retrieved July 28, 2010 – via Internet Archive.[better source needed]
  16. ^ "Jack Straw". March 20, 2007. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
  17. ^ Bliss, Abi (February 9, 2009). "Death: The Detroit band that never sold out". The Guardian. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  18. ^ "Clive Davis: Information from". Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  19. ^ "Let CBS Tell Its Own Ugly Story". Record-Journal. Meriden, Connecticut. The New York Times News Service. June 22, 1973. Retrieved January 2, 2024 – via Google News. 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 (July 5, 1973). "Clive Davis Ousted from Columbia; Payola Coverup Charged". Rolling Stone.
  21. ^ Stokes, Geoffrey (April 24, 1977). "Clive's Comeback". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Anson, Robert Sam (February 2, 2000). "Clive Davis Fights Back". Vanity Fair.
  23. ^ "Clive Davis' impact on music".
  24. ^ Doreen Carvajal (November 27, 1999). "Creative Turmoil At Arista; Founder and Chief Resists a Successor". The New York Times. Retrieved January 1, 2024.
  25. ^ Morris, Edward (May 20, 1989). "Arista's New Country Division Is Ready To Roll" (PDF). Billboard. p. 35.
  26. ^ "Record Exec Davis Signs Development Pact With Tri-Star". Variety. June 24, 1987. pp. 4, 19.
  27. ^ "Recording Industry Association of America". Recording Industry Association of America. Archived from the original on December 8, 2006. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  28. ^ Segal, David (March 16, 2001). "The Man with the Golden Ear". The Washington Post.
  29. ^ "Clive Davis Wins World Top 100 A&R of 2001". HitQuarters. January 5, 2002. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  30. ^ Moody, Nekesa Mumbi (April 18, 2008). "Clive Davis replaced by Barry Weiss as BMG head". USA Today. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
  31. ^ "RCA's Peter Edge, Tom Corson on the Shuttering of Jive, J and Arista". Billboard. October 7, 2011. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  32. ^ LeDonne, Rob (August 18, 2022). "Clive Davis". Retrieved March 10, 2023.
  33. ^ Basham, David (December 12, 2000). "Beach Boys, Bennett, Who To Win Lifetime Achievement Grammys". MTV. Archived from the original on July 2, 2012.
  34. ^ Gundersen, Edna (February 4, 2009). "The official label on Clive Davis' famed gala this year: Grammy". USA Today.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ Morgan, Laura (March 9, 2000). "Hall Monitor". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on July 30, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  37. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  38. ^ Malcolm Lazin (August 20, 2015). "Op-ed: Here Are the 31 Icons of 2015's Gay History Month". Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  39. ^ Kroll, Justin (September 24, 2021). "Stanley Tucci To Play Clive Davis in Whitney Houston Biopic 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody'". Deadline. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  40. ^ Goodman, Fred (April 11, 2019). "Meet Fred Davis, One of the Industry's Biggest Dealmakers (And, Yes, Clive's Son)". Billboard. Retrieved January 5, 2023.
  41. ^ Newman, Melinda (August 29, 2019). "Harry Belafonte, Rosanne Cash, Karrin Allyson Celebrate 'Centennial Tribute to Women's Suffrage': Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved January 5, 2023.
  42. ^ "Clive Davis' Grandkids Unaware About His Bisexuality". World Entertainment News Network. February 19, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2024 – via
  43. ^ Strauss, Alix (October 4, 2019). "On Again, Off Again, and With a Nudge, Now On Forever". The New York Times.
  44. ^ "Clive Davis Gets Candid About Bisexuality In 'Soundtrack Of My Life' Memoir". MTV. Archived from the original on June 4, 2024. Retrieved June 4, 2024.
  45. ^ "Clive Davis Comes Out of the Closet on Katie". The Hollywood Reporter. February 18, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2023.
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