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I was straight until my second marriage failed and then opened myself to bisexuality, a category which no one seemed to understand.

ELEVEN QUESTIONS
FOR CLIVE DAVIS

The Legendary Record Executive Speaks Out on the Publication of his Autobiography, The Soundtrack of my Life

Clive Davis' The Soundtrack of My Life covers his 40-plus years in the record business, and has been received with critical accolades. Of course, he threatened all that good will by siting down with HITS magazine for a Q&A on the eve of publication.

Why did you choose now to write this book?
I had been receiving  heavy and accelerating requests for me to write my autobiography. It started from the many with whom I had worked closely over the years and then became widespread to the armies in the industry who had shared the wars we all go through together. Thereafter, a few television networks and, separately, motion picture studios, put in very strong bids. I knew I had to take it all to heart and carve out the time, which I did every weekend for two solid years.

How did your pre-Grammy party go this year?
Every year I’m moved by the emotional responses I get: “Hey, Clive, this is the best one ever.” Well, this year was no exception and I have to say it even seemed heavier and more diverse than ever. To show how unique and glittering were the guests in the audience, in MCing the evening, I was greeted by terrific roars one after the other when I opened by introducing Joni Mitchell, and then Sting, and then Johnny Depp, followed by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, then Magic Johnson and then the great Quincy Jones.

What were the top performances?
I had two goals this year in attempting to put together an unforgettable show.  One was to demonstrate that new and original artists were strongly coming to the fore in the last two years, showing visible progress that electronic dance music would not so dominate radio and our industry that anyone who was cutting edge would have great difficulty in emerging. Miguel, The Lumineers and Emeli Sandé separately performed and each rocked the house. Then, not at all to slight EDM, I stunned alot of people by opening the show with a blazing DJ Afrojack. My other goal was to showcase once again, regardless of this year’s Grammys, the greatest artists our industry has produced.  I can’t adequately express the incredible reaction the Patti Smith Group received when they performed “Gloria”and “People Have the Power." And I delivered on the promise I made at the beginning of the night when I said one of our very best young performers would share the stage with one of our best all-timers and Jennifer Hudson and Miss Gladys Knight raised the roof together with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” All of this bookended a beautiful tribute to this year’s icon L.A Reid, spearheaded by Doug Morris, Babyface and a verymoving performance by Usher.  Need I say more!?

Why did you choose to deal with your sexuality in the bookafter being so private about it in the past?
In the past I had dealt with it openly with my children, older grandchildren and close friends. Otherwise, I felt it was a private matter. I was straight until my second marriage failed and then opened myself to bisexuality, a category which no one seemed to understand. The adage was, “You’re gay, straight or lying.” That’s just not true and as soon as I decided to write my autobiography, I knew that it had to include my experiences hopefully to result in some better understanding of this greatly misunderstood subject.

How has your family reacted to the book?
With love, with understanding and with total support.

Who do you consider your peers as a record business executive?
Over the years I consider my peers everyone I list on pages 168 and 169 of my book. (I’m no fool. I would like each and every HITS reader to read this book.)

What do you most want to be remembered for?
There are three different perspectives I would like to be part of my legacy: a) I would like to be remembered for the artists I helped discover from Janis Joplin, Springsteen, Aerosmith, Santana, Loggins and Messina, Billy Joel and Earth, Wind & Fire to Patti Smith, Whitney and Alicia, among others; b) I would like to be remembered for the songs, the copyrights, that I and my A&R staff submitted to our great artist vocalists and watched these songs become standards for many years to come for Whitney, Dionne, Barry, Aretha, et al; and c) I would like to be remembered for the careers of those genius artists I helped extend, inspiring musicians everywhere to see how long a great career can last:  The Kinks, Manilow, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, Carly Simon, Rod Stewart and Luther Vandross.  It’s so fulfilling and emotionally satisfying the second time around.

Which artist’s talent most impressed you?
It’s like answering which kid of yours is your favorite. Out of the many, many artists I’ve worked with, Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith were clearly in a very special category. I’ve written much about Joplin and Springsteen, so let me just say I remember auditioning Patti privately in a recording studio. Was she different! Her take was so original, so different, it was startling. A rebel from the word go, but her poetry fused with rock music was, and is, unforgettable. I loved my years with Barry, Dionne, Aretha, Whitney and Santana. I could go on and on. I was a creative partner for each of these Hall of Famers and the songs I and my A&R staff found that they ingeniously interpreted that will live on forever are also very special to me and lifetime memories. And then there’s the brilliant young renaissance woman, Alicia Keys, as well as artists I worked with, but certainly didn’t discover: Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, the Grateful Dead, Annie Lennox, Carly Simon, Luther Vandross.

What was your first meeting with Whitney Houston like? Did you immediately recognize her as a star? How do you feel now a year after her death?
My first audition of Whitney was unforgettable. My A&R man, Gerry Griffith, set it up and Whitney was singing two songs in the middle of her mother Cissy's act. One song she was singing was “The Greatest Love of All,” which I had personally commissioned eight years earlier for the movie The Greatest on the life of Muhammad Ali. I was blown away. This stunning 19-year-old was finding new meaning in the song that I felt even the composers didn’t know was there. I was determined to, and did, sign her and then a few weeks later, I brought her on Merv Griffin’s national TV show and introduced her as the new star for the next generation. You ask how I feel today, well, I’m still stunned and in pain. As a keeper of the flame, I’m immersed in her recordings, videos and concert performances. I hear and see over and over why she soared time and time again. And I shudder at the devastation drugs can cause. This historic life, the staggering talent of this beautiful woman, was cut so tragically short.

How was the experience different writing this book from the first one?
The first book covered about 10 years of my professional life. This book covers the entire four-plus decades. It probes deeper. To me, it answers all questions as honestly and soulfully as I can and hopefully it educates and entertains all those interested in music and a life in music. The immediate response has been overwhelmingly heartwarming and touching.

Will you ever get Richard Palmese to convert to Judaism?…That might be your biggest achievement of all.
I would never want Richard to even think about converting. When I first met him in the late '70s, he was already Father Palmese and with his incredible continuing insight and humanity he should always remain“father” to us all.

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