Clive Davis
OccupationRecord producer, Music executive
SpouseHelen Cohen (1956–1965; divorced)[1]
Janet Adelberg (1965–1985; divorced)[1]
ChildrenFred (b. 1960)[1]
Lauren (b. 1962)[1]
Mitchell (b. 1970)[1]
Douglas (b. 1974)[1]

Clive Davis (born April 4, 1932) is an American record producer and music industry executive. He has won five Grammy Awards and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer.[2]

From 1967 to 1973, Davis was the President of Columbia Records. He was the founder and president of Arista Records from 1975 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.[3] He currently plays a part in the careers of Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, Alicia Keys, Barry Manilow, Christina Aguilera, Carlos Santana, Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis and Jennifer Hudson. Davis is credited with bringing Whitney Houston to prominence.

Clive Davis is an alumnus of New York University, and the recorded music division of its Tisch School for the Arts is named after him.

Early life and education

Davis was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family,[1] the son of Herman and Florence Davis. His father was an electrician and salesman.[4] Davis was raised in the middle-class neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.[4] His mother died, aged 47, and his father died the following year when Davis was only a teenager, leaving him an orphan with no money.[4] He then moved in with his married sister in Bayside, Queens.[4] He received a full scholarship to New York University College of Arts and Science, where he graduated[4] 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.

Personal life

Davis has been married and divorced twice.[1] He was married to Helen Cohen from 1956 to 1965 and to Janet Adelberg from 1965 to 1985.[1] He has four children: Fred (born 1960), Lauren (born 1962), Mitchell (born 1970), and Douglas (born 1974).[1] He also has six grandchildren.[5]

In 2013, Davis publicly came out as bisexual in his autobiography The Soundtrack of My Life. On the daytime talk show Katie, he told host Katie Couric that he hoped his coming out would lead to "greater understanding" of bisexuality.[1][6] Since 2004, Davis has been in a relationship with a man, which followed a 14-year relationship with a male doctor.[1]


Davis 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 a 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 and general counsel the next year.[7]

In a company reorganization of the operations of the Columbia Records Group, Goddard Lieberson, the president of the Group, appointed Davis Vice President and General Manager in 1966. In 1967 he was appointed President 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, Electric Flag, Carlos Santana, The Chambers Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Billy Joel, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Loggins & Messina and Pink Floyd. The company, which had previously avoided rock music (its few rock acts prior to the Davis presidency included The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, and Paul Revere and the Raiders), doubled its market share in three years. One of the most commercially successful 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 for 27 years.

In 1972, Davis also signed Earth, Wind & Fire to Columbia Records. One of his most recognized accomplishments was signing the Boston group Aerosmith to Columbia Records in the early 1970s 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." [8] Starting on December 30, 1978,[9] Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead occasionally changed the lyrics of the Dead standard Jack_Straw (song) in concert from "we used to play for silver, now we play for life," to "we used to play for silver, now we play for Clive."

After Davis was fired from CBS Records for allegedly using company funds to bankroll his son's bar mitzvah,[10] 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 founded the company Arista Records (named after New York City's secondary school honor society of which he was a member, and it replaced Columbia Pictures' Bell Record label).

At Arista, Davis signed Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Patti Smith, The Outlaws, Eric Carmen, Exposé, Ace of Base, Air Supply, Ray Parker, Jr. and Raydio, and Alicia Keys, and he brought to the label Carly Simon, The Grateful Dead, The Kinks and Lou Reed. He founded Arista Nashville which became the home to Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis and Brad Paisley. Davis founded LaFace Records with L.A. Reid and Babyface. LaFace subsequently became the home of TLC, Usher, Outkast, P!nk and Toni Braxton. He founded Bad Boy Records with Sean Combs and it became the home of the Notorious B.I.G., Puffy Combs, Mase, [[112 (band) and Faith Evans.

Davis was made aware of Cissy Houston's talented daughter Whitney Houston at a New York City nightclub. Impressed with what he heard, Davis signed her to Arista Records. Houston became one of the biggest selling artists in music history under the guidance of Davis at Arista Records.[11] Davis left Arista in 2000 and started J Records, an independent label with financial backing from Arista parent Bertelsmann Music Group. BMG would buy a majority stake in J Records in 2002, and Davis would become president and CEO of the larger RCA Music Group.

Davis' continued success in breaking new artists was recognized by the music industry A&R site HitQuarters when the executive was named "world's No.1 A&R of 2001" based on worldwide chart data for that year.[12]

In 2004, BMG merged with Sony Music Entertainment to form Sony BMG. With the assets of CBS Records now under Sony's ownership, the joint venture would mean a return of sorts for Davis to his former employer. Davis remained with RCA Label Group until 2008, when he was named chief creative officer for Sony BMG. Barry Weiss, head of Sony's Zomba Group of Companies, replaced Davis as RCA Label Group's chairman.[13] Sony BMG became Sony Music Entertainment in late 2008 when BMG sold its shares to Sony.[14] Arista Records and J Records which were both founded by Davis were dissolved in October 2011 through the restructuring of RCA Records. All artists under those labels have been moved to RCA Records.[15]


Grammy Awards

Clive Davis has won four Grammy Awards as a Producer:

  • 2009: Grammy Award for Best R&B Album – Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Hudson
  • 2006: Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album – Breakaway, Kelly Clarkson
  • 2000: Grammy Award for Album of the Year – Supernatural, Santana
  • 2000: Grammy Award for Best Rock Album – Supernatural, Santana

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

Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. The theater at the Grammy Museum was named the Clive Davis Theater in the year 2011.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 McCormack, David. "'I'm bisexual': Twice married music industry legend Clive Davis reveals he's had relationships with men since the late '70s", February 19, 2013. 
  2. Clive Davis page at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  3. Lauria, Peter (2008-10-10). Sony Music Turns To Davis For Hit$. Retrieved on 2010-07-28.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 NYU Alumni Magazine: "The Man With the Platinum Ears" BY JASON HOLLANDER Fall 2011, page 33-36
  5. "Clive Davis - Clive Davis' Grandkids Unaware About His Bisexuality", February 19, 2013. 
  6. "Clive Davis Comes Out of the Closet on 'Katie'", February 18, 2013. 
  7. Dannen, Frederic (1990). Hit Men. Times Books. pp. 66-67. ISBN 0-8129-1658-1
  8. Aerosmith Biography: From Clive Davis to Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. Max's Kansas City (2008-09-26). Retrieved on 2008-09-26.
  9. Grateful Dead Live at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA on 1978-12-30 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive. Retrieved on 2010-07-28.
  10. Clive Davis: Information from. Retrieved on 2010-07-28.
  12. CLIVE DAVIS WINS WORLD TOP 100 A&R OF 2001. HitQuarters (5 January 2002). Retrieved on 22 February 2012.
  13. {{cite web |url= |title=Clive Davis replaced by Barry Weiss as BMG head |last=Moody |first= Nekesa Mumbi |date=April 18, 2008 |work=[[ |publisher=Gannett Co. Inc. |accessdate=2009-12-02}}
  14. Lauria, Peter (October 10, 2008). Sony Music turns to Davis for Hit$. NYP Holdings, Inc.. Retrieved on 2009-12-04.

Further reading

  • Davis, Clive (1975). Clive: Inside the Record Business. William Morrow & Company, Inc.
  • Davis, Clive (2013). "The Soundtrack of My Life". Simon & Schuster
  • Clive Davis at the Internet Movie Database

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