After three years of hosting his "Pre-Grammy Gala" remotely as a result of the pandemic, Clive Davis is understandably thrilled to return to the Beverly Hills Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for his annual schmoozefest and concert on Saturday night.

As the big night approaches, Clive is back in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, his L.A. base of operations for more than a half-century, working out last-minute details alongside his attorney son Doug Davis, who’s been deeply involved in the production of the event for a decade and a half, and a team from the Recording Academy, which has co-sponsored the event since 2008.

What do you have planned leading up to the big party?
It’s not exactly a calm week, the week of. RSVPs are still pouring in. And of course, we’re planning the show to make it special and up to the standard of the party and its history. So it’s taking 24/7. The show is what’s taking up most of this week, obviously. And so I’ve been really working on what hopefully will be a night to remember.

It must be especially exciting for you, not having done it in person for the last three years.
It feels like it never left, because I have a feeling this could be the most star-filled, the most storied night of them all. It’s a good feeling because the attendees call it their most memorable night of the year and they’ve hungered for it. So to feel and to hear directly what the party has meant to so many, just hearing it personally this year has been very gratifying.

What have been some of your favorite pre-Grammy galas over the years?
From the very first one we held, in 1976, seeing Stevie Wonder and John Denver and Elton John show up, there was the recognition that this could be unique. I never thought I’d be doing it 47 years later.

As far as looking back, I think the idea of mixing artists who don’t usually perform together is special. I mean, pairing Alicia Keys with Aretha Franklin, that was a dream Alicia had the year she won Best New Artist [2001]. I did go to her and say, “You’ve won all these Grammys from your first album; what would be the next dream?” She says, “The next dream would be to play your party with Aretha Franklin.”

Rod Stewart, in the midst of his [The Complete] Great American Songbook project, we were discussing who he would perform with at my Grammy party. We put together a unique combination where Rod performed with Lou Reed and Slash, and that was really different and exciting and memorable.

Normally I look to every label to be represented—it certainly is not a company party. But I remember when I signed Carlos Santana for the second time. I had the album [1999's Supernatural] finished, and I knew that at Arista there were many speculating that I was drawn by sentiment, because Carlos was the third artist I'd ever signed. Here I was, re-signing Carlos, who was in his 50s and not the lead singer and he had not been on the radio for many, many years. But I knew that the album had “Smooth” in it with Rob Thomas and “Maria Maria” with Wyclef and The Product G&B. So it seemed like an all-star assemblage that would qualify for the Grammy party, with Carlos uniting with Rob and Wyclef. They performed “Smooth” and “Maria Maria” and got an amazing response, a standing ovation. And it was atypical because you don’t really use a party to break singles, but this was a unique assemblage of major artists. We’d gotten permission to have Rob, who was in Matchbox Twenty, and Wyclef, and it really created such sensational word of mouth that by the time we came with “Smooth,” it already had its legend.

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