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Music executive and producer Clive Davis has worked with Whitney Houston, Janis Joplin, Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson among others.
Clive Davis, author of "The Soundtrack of My Life," recalls when he signed musical legends Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and Patti Smith. Video courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Clive Davis, author of "The Soundtrack of My Life," recalls the first time he ever heard Whitney Houston sing "The Greatest Love of All." Video courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Clive Davis and Arista records released Whitney Houston's debut album, "Whitney Houston," in 1985. Her strong voice shined on the ballads "The Greatest Love of All" and "Saving All My Love for You."
Jennifer Hudson first entered the spotlight as a contestant on "American Idol" in 2004. In 2006, she starred in the movie musical "Dreamgirls," which earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
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Born in 1932 in Brooklyn, New York, Clive Davis started out as a lawyer. He landed a job at Columbia Records and eventually became its president. While there, Davis signed Janis Joplin, Aerosmith, and others to the label. In 1974,
"I take nothing for granted. Failure's right around the corner."
Sometimes known as the Man with the Golden Ears, Clive Jay Davis—born on April 4, 1932, in Brooklyn, New York—didn't start out with the intention of becoming one of music's most influential executives. His intense dedication and work ethic emerged early on, as he applied himself to his studies. After losing both of his parents as a teenager, Davis found himself on his own. He worked hard to earn top grades, which helped him win scholarships to New York University and Harvard Law School.
After completing Harvard Law in 1956, Davis joined a law firm that worked with Columbia Records. He moved over to Columbia a few years later as a part of their legal department. Davis then worked his way up in the organization, eventually becoming president of the label in 1967. That same year, he began his rise as a musical tastemaker.
Davis attended the famous Monterey Pop Festival, where he saw such rock acts as the Janis Joplin-fronted Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane. Davis was especially impressed by Joplin, and signed her to his label. Eventually selling more than 25 million records, Joplin became Davis' first great success story. He went on to sign such diverse acts as Earth, Wind & Fire, Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith.
In 1973, Davis was fired for using corporate funds for personal expenses, including paying for his son's bar mitzvah. He has disputed this charge, claiming the company wanted to get rid of him. Whatever the case, Davis didn't take long to find a new home. He founded Arista Records the following year, and soon returned to his hit-making ways. One of his early discoveries was Barry Manilow, who scored the label's first No. 1 hit with 1975's "Mandy."
Not just focused on pop music, Davis continued to find new rock talent. He signed punk legend Patti Smith and released one of her most acclaimed albums Horses in 1975. Davis was also instrumental in launching the careers of British rockers in the band, The Kinks.
In addition to finding new talent, Davis showed great skill at reviving the careers of several performers. He worked with Dionne Warwick to bring her back to the charts in 1979 with "I'll Never Love This Way Again," off her album Dionne. With his guidance, Davis helped Warwick become popular and critically acclaimed once more. He also helped the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin win over a new generation of fans in the early 1980s.
Around this time, Davis made one of his most famous discoveries. He saw a teenage Whitney Houston perform, and quickly signed her to his label.
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