April 4 – Davis, King Of The Hitmakers

Happy 87th birthday to one of rock’s biggest behind-the-scenes men, Clive Davis. Davis is one of the small number of people inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the “non-performer” category.

Little surprise there. He’s been a major player in the record industry for some 50 years, rising to prominence as president of Columbia in the late-’60s when he helped make stars out of Bob Dylan, Chicago, Simon & Garfunkel (at the time his personal favorites), and perhaps most of all, Santana.

He told the Atlanta Journal Constitution Santana was “about the third artist I signed at Columbia” after Janis Joplin and Blood, Sweat and Tears. Not a bad run that! “Bill Graham, the legendary music promoter, asked me to fly to the Fillmore West to audition a new artist that he felt special about. It turned out to be the Santana band. Obviously, I was knocked out.”  The partnership was good at Columbia, but even better decades later when Davis, with Arista Records, a label he had started, got together with Carlos Santana and decided to resurrect his stalled career. The result was the 30-million selling Supernatural which Davis produced. 

Recently Clive’s been back at Columbia, in its modern version, as the Chief Creative Officer at Sony. He says the biggest challenge in the record business is once you identify talent knowing “whether the artist needs marketing or material.” Artists he signed like Barry Manilow and Whitney Houston had the raw talent but only marginal songs, so he was instrumental in finding the right songs for them to work with. On the other hand, he says when it comes to Springsteen, Alicia Keys or the Grateful Dead (other artists he’s signed) they just need the proper marketing once “you’ve got to wait for them to give birth” to the great material. Whether this is overly simplistic or not, it’s certainly a formula he’s used to shape the sounds of the past few decades as much as anybody.




7 thoughts on “April 4 – Davis, King Of The Hitmakers

  1. badfinger20

    Running late today… Clive Davis is a legend no doubt. I think he signed Aerosmith also… he has had a heck of a career. The Grateful Dead took a long time to pay off…but they finally did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He might have signed Aerosmith too,like you say. He was involved in Springsteen and Billy Joel too but left CBS before their careers took off much. His autobiography is really interesting albeit a bit self-aggrandizing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. badfinger20

        I’ve thought about getting his autobiography…I’ll keep that in mind…I like to have a few lined up.

        the one that I read was about Walter Yetnikoff… he was a wild man.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. badfinger20

        He was a really wild guy also. it’s been a while but I believe Davis gave him his start if I’m not mistaken.


  2. Pingback: January 2 – Carlos And Clive Engineered ‘Smooth’ Comeback – A Sound Day

  3. Pingback: January 17 – Well At Least He Sang The Songs – A Sound Day

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