Clive Davis

Clive Davis (born April 4, 1932) is an American record producer, executive and music industry executive. He has won multiple Grammy awards and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer.[1] From 1967-72 he was the President of Columbia Records, was the founder and president of Arista Records in the late 1970s through 2000 until founding J Records. From 2002 until April 2008, Davis was the Chairman and CEO of the RCA Music Group (which included RCA Records, J Records and Arista Records), Chairman and CEO of J Records, and Chairman and CEO of BMG North America. Currently Davis is the Chief Creative Officer of Sony Music Entertainment Worldwide.[2] He currently plays a part in the careers of Alicia Keys, Rod Stewart, Jennifer Hudson, Carlos Santana, Kelly Clarkson, Harry Connick, Jr., Leona Lewis, Barry Manilow, Whitney Houston, BC Jean and many more.


Early life and career: The CBS years

Davis was born in Brooklyn, New York to a Jewish family, the son of Herman and Florence Davis. After spending four of his earliest years in England, Davis was raised in the middle-class neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He received a full scholarship to New York University College of Arts and Science, where he graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1953. He then received a full scholarship to Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Board of Student Advisers and graduated in 1956. He practiced law in a small firm in New York, then moved on to the firm of Rosenman, Colin, Kaye, Petschek, and Freund two years later, where partner Ralph Colin had CBS as client. Hired by a former colleague at the firm, Harvey Schein, Davis became assistant counsel of CBS subsidiary Columbia Records at the age of twenty-eight.[3]

Davis became a protégé of CBS Records President Goddard Lieberson, and began to climb the ranks of Columbia/CBS. In 1967, he became president of Columbia Records and became interested in the newest generation of folk rock and rock and roll. One of his earliest pop signings was the British folk-rock musician Donovan, who enjoyed a string of successful hit singles and albums released in the USA on the Epic label.

In June 1967, at the urging of his friend and business associate Lou Adler, Davis attended the Monterey Pop Festival. He immediately signed Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Columbia went on to sign Laura Nyro, Jimmie Spheeris, Electric Flag, Santana, The Chambers Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, Andy Pratt, Chicago, Billy Joel, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Pink Floyd. The company, which had previously avoided rock music, doubled its market share in three years. One of the biggest recordings released during Davis' tenure at Columbia was Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden", in late 1970. It was Davis who insisted "Rose Garden" be the country singer's next single release. The song reached number one in 16 countries around the world and remained the biggest selling album by a female country artist between 1971 and 1997.

In 1972, Davis also signed Iggy Pop and Earth, Wind & Fire to Columbia Records. One of his most recognized accomplishments was signing the Boston group Aerosmith to Columbia Records in the early 70s at New York City's Max's Kansas City, which was mentioned in the 1979 Aerosmith song "No Surprise", where Steven Tyler sings "Old Clive Davis said he's surely gonna make you a star, just the way you are".[4] Starting in December 30, 1978,[5] Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead occasionally changed the lyrics of the Dead standard Jack Straw in concert from "we used to play for silver, now we play for life", to "we used to play for acid now we play for Clive".

The Arista years

After Davis was fired from CBS Records for using company funds to bankroll his son's bar mitzvah,[6] Columbia Pictures (at the time unrelated to Columbia Records) hired him to be a consultant for the company's record and music operations. After taking time out to write his memoirs, he was offered the presidency of the division in late 1974.[7] Davis subsequently merged the various labels – Colpix Records, Colgems Records and Bell Records – into a new entity named Arista Records, ultimately buying a percentage of the company from Columbia Pictures. The label was named Arista after New York City's secondary school honor society (of which Davis was a member). Davis was brought to the attention of a young unknown singer named Whitney Houston at a New York City nightclub. Impressed with what he heard, Davis signed the singer to Arista Records. Houston would become one of the biggest selling artists in music history under the guidance of Davis at Arista Records. Davis was featured in the February 21, 2008 (1046) issue of Rolling Stone. The article titled "The Last Record Man" discusses how Davis has helped guide the careers of hit artists and how even four decades later he still looks for the next hit.

Chief creative officer at Sony Music

In a reshuffling of the executive ranks at Sony BMG, it was announced on April 18, 2008 that Davis was appointed chief creative officer at Sony BMG. Zomba head Barry Weiss replaced Davis as chairman and CEO of the BMG Label Group (now called RCA/Jive Label Group).[8] Sony BMG became Sony Music Entertainment in late 2008 when BMG sold its shares to Sony and in Davis became chief creative officer.[9]

Grammy Awards

Clive Davis has won four Grammy Awards as a Producer:

Davis was also presented with the Recording Academy's Grammy Trustees Award in 2000 and the President's Merit Award in 2009.


  1. Clive Davis page at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  2. Lauria, Peter (2008-10-10). . Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  3. Dannen, Frederic (1990). Hit Men. Times Books. pp. 66-67. ISBN 0-8129-1658-1
  4. . Max's Kansas City. 2008-09-26. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  5. . Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  6. . Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  7. Dannen, Frederic (1990). p. 107.
  8. Moody, Nekesa Mumbi (April 18, 2008). . . Gannett Co. Inc.. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  9. Lauria, Peter (October 10, 2008). . . NYP Holdings, Inc.. Retrieved 2009-12-04.