My love affair with pop music started in about 1955, and continues unabated. To read Clive Davis' story kind of legitimizes a key aspect of life, since I too believe pop music to be an important element of society. That this Harvard-educated lawyer, and very smart, should decide to build a career in the music industry, guiding artists in their choices is music to my ears. And, folks, Clive has guided a huge slew of music to your ears over his long career, beginning with his discovery of Janis Joplin, and bringing us Whitney Houston, whom I would say is Clive's pick for the greatest artist he discovered.
And now, confession time. I had never appreciated Whitney until I read this book. I had noticed just a few of her songs and never bought any of her records. I dug out a couple of cassettes that I inherited from my niece but had never played. And then I went to the store and bought "Whitney: The Greatest Hits," which has been reissued in the Millennium Series as The Essential Whitney Houston. This disc is amazing, and I am hearing most of the songs for the first time! Goose bumps. How did I ever miss this genius singer till now? I am forever grateful to Clive Davis and that I found this book. I have also purchased several other LPs of Arista artists from the 80s in the last few days, including Aretha Franklin, another great singer I have failed to appreciate in the past.
While Clive wasn't a music fan as a kid, he rapidly became one after he joined Columbia Records as corporate lawyer. In a relatively short time he headed that organization. His relationships with artists like Dionne Warwick were exceptional, as he brought them back into the limelight. By matching songs to artists, and sometimes persuading them not to write their own, he generated smash hit singles and blockbuster albums for them which, left to their own devices they would never have done. Today's plethora of 'índie' artists need Clive Jameses. His pre-Grammy parties showcased his artists. He took intense pleasure in their success. Another crowning achievement was the return of Carlos Santana to fame and fortune for the second time with the release by Arista of 'Supernatural,' which Clive crafted with him, 30 years after signing him to Columbia.
Another dimension of the book that is so insightful is the corporate competitive struggles of record lables and their business hierarchies. Clive reported to businessmen who often had little interest in music. When at age 67 he was offered a top management position that would separate him from daily contact with his beloved artists, he was shattered, and they were confused. Business people are often promoted to stratospheric positions where they control people with far more talent than them in most areas, other than bottom-line business. One result of this is poor decision-making at the highest levels, and dissatisfaction in the ranks which will eventually destroy companies. In Clive's case he was just smarter than most of his bosses. There is plenty in the book to enthrall students of business and entrepreneurs. There is big money to be made in the music industry, and this attracts many who wouldn't recognize a crotchet if they bumped into one.
Clive Davis has defined the music industry for 40 years. If all the units of pleasure felt in the hearts of music listeners over those years could be quantified, he would hold a record for giving pleasure to the human race. This book will give great pleasure to all who ever enter music stores. Watch a brief video of Clive 24 Nov 2014 on The Voice YouTube channel
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