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WE’VE LOOKED AT CLIVE FROM BOTH SIDES NOW: GRAMMY PARTY PART 2

In a world where the show must go on, count on Clive Davis to apply that principle to the party. In true Clive fashion, not only would COVID not stop the celebration of artists, but he would find new ways to connect VIPs, artists, execs, influencers and yes, a few HITS hangers-on to laud the musicians who’ve defined greatness for more than half a century.

Not one but two Zoom events—each going well over four hours—were dedicated to this enterprise. Though we couldn’t be together at The Beverly Hilton, dancing and raving (or, in Todd Hensley’s case, sneaking a butt with Joni Mitchell), Davis and his co-producer/son Doug Davis curated some of Clive’s “greatest performances” and homages by newer acts.

It was all to benefit MusiCares and The Grammy Museum; throughout the event, "text CLIVE to 76278" flashed to remind us to give.

And the names? Round One included Chance the Rapper, John Legend, Bruce Springsteen, Ricky Minor, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Sean Combs and Nancy Pelosi. Round Two, a five-hour embarrassment of riches, opened with Judy Garland in black-and-white, so alive and vibrant that Lorna Luft would arrive at the after-party to applaud the selection.

Other harvested riches: Simon & Garfunkel from Central Park and Paul Simon on Saturday Night Live, Queen from Live Aid, Chris Stapleton doing “Tennessee Whiskey” with wife Morgane on Austin City Limits, Barry Manilow on the Arista Records 25th Anniversary Special and Tina Turner from VH-1’s Divas Live at Radio City Music Hall.

What gave these moments dimension wasn’t Davis telling us why the performances mattered, but his ability to have either the performers or someone close to them (in Turner’s case, Oprah Winfrey) speak not just to the truth of their artistic greatness but how their life, struggle and journey defines everything. Davis, having established himself as a music-first, artist-forward exec, knows how to talk to creative people to unpack the real stories and creative process.

After juxtaposing a Joni Mitchell performance of “Both Sides Now,” a Kurt Weill-ian interpretation with a London symphony, with the song’s initial innocence, the pair dove into a spirited discourse about youth, experience and allowing songs to mature. It’s clear Mitchell delights in the deeper consideration of her work; she remained on camera in the VIP Zoom room throughout the night.

That’s part of Davis’ elan. To hear the 88-year-old biz icon and Berry Gordy exchanging insights about The Supremes and business—following the clip of Diana Ross’ tour de force navigation of the rainstorm that stopped her Central Park concert—was to hear two titans comparing notes on how our business was formed. Casual, informative, exactly the conversation too few witness.

While his catch-up with Carlos Santana spoke to his breadth of their collaboration—spanning the late ‘60s through today, marked by the story and a performance of “Smooth” with Rob Thomas—it was seeing Davis with the younger creators that really sparked. Interviewing Da Baby—after running his Grammy performance of ROCKSTAR”—29-year-old Jonathan Lyndale Kirk drew out the artist's ability to navigate unthinkable tragedy (the death of his father, the suicide of his brother) and the creative process.

Showing Prince’s slow-burn gospel performance of “Purple Rain” on the American Music Awards, Davis enlisted Grammy and Oscar winner H.E.R. for a discussion of Prince’s impact. She punctuated their talk with a torchy rendition of “Nothing Compares 2U” that included her own soulfully searing electric guitar solo.

Even the notoriously singular Barbra Streisand, meanwhile, whose performance of “People” was perfection, was singularly honored as Jazmine Sullivan turned in a stripped-down “The Way We Were” that was a high point of the event.

A raging 1992 performance in Japan of “Welcome to the Jungle" set the stage for the very affable Slash to embrace the outsider space from which Guns N’ Roses emerged, while Foo Fighters founder/frontman Dave Grohl spoke of Davis’ radio edit of “Times Like These,” which the band had somehow been unable to land on itself. Laughing, easy, their camaraderie manifested actual joy, not the audience-with-a-king formality most industry events engender.

That is what defines Davis’ Grammy parties, whether live or virtual. Beyond the networking and glorious spectacle of the event, we find there remains much to discover about artists we were so sure we knew—while being introduced to new creators we feel compelled to learn more about.

During the elongated Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach segment, a shining Whitney Houston emerged from the wings to sing “That’s What Friends Are For” with her aunt. Yes, a cavalcade of celebrities including Lauren Bacall, Meryl Streep and Whoopi Goldberg would stream out for the final chorus, but in that moment, the lineage of divas was so clear.

And those attendees? It was an eclectic mix that included, among many others, Peter Asher, Monte Lipman, Aaron Neville, Julie Swidler, Nile Rodgers, Daniel Glass, Tom Freston, Gayle King, Carly Simon, Michele Anthony, Cameron Crowe, Elton John, Sherry Lansing, Mike Dungan, Krist Novoselic, Coran Capshaw, Suzanne de Passe, Scott Borchetta, Dick Cavett, Matt Serletic, Beverly Johnson, Dan + Shay’s Dan Smyers, Tommy Hilfiger, Matt Sorum, Josh Groban, Brenda Vaccaro, Dallas Austin, Tamron Hall, Steve Berkowitz, Larry Klein, George Schlatter and Ray Parker, Jr.

Next year, we earnestly hope, we can bum that smoke in person.

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