Posts Tagged ‘Clive Davis’


February 14, 2012

Whitney Houston and Lana De Rey? It seems a long stretch but hear me out.

Whitney Houston died and again we need to ask the very same question asked when Michael Jackson died, and Elvis died and others died. Where were the minders? How did it get to this? We know that Whitney was a trainwreck ready to crash. There were probably hundreds of junkies who died on the same day. Alone. Famous people aren’t alone. I’m not naive. I know that their fame and money allows them to surround themselves with people who WILL turn a blind eye and WILL assist destructive tendencies, but they’ve still got more chance of being rescued than those other lonely casualties.

Whitney Houston was handed life on a platter. That’s the real tragedy. She was beautiful and she had the gift of a great voice. She already had a potential career as a high profile model on offer when she opted to  follow her mother and cousin into music. Then she was handed “the world”, not an ordinary beginning to a career. Clive Davis searched out songs and producers and months were spent on assembling that debut album. It was an important record in many ways. It introduced us to Whitney Houston. It broke the mould of one producer overseeing an entire album. The industry was never the same. And Whitney and her album changed pop music.  It was so fitting that Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to Whitney at the Grammys. Since American Idol started we’ve seen female singer after female singer emulating Whitney Houston’s “over-singing” vocal style.

Whitney was handed life on a platter. How could it go so wrong? . Is it true that she used to have someone blow cocaine up her backside?

So where does Lana Del Rey fit into all this?  I’m wondering what the hell HER minders are up to. Are they deliberately letting  her commit career-o-cide or are they just incompetent? How could she be put out there so “un-prepared”.  Maybe she really is a starry-eyed wanna-be who’s stumbled into the spotlights, but she actually didn’t get there on her own. She has management, she’s signed to a major record company. There ARE people around her who SHOULD know better.

Has there been another artist who’s been made such a public target for derision? A lot of it wasn’t necessary. Or was it? Is this the way the music industry operates now? Sacrifice rather than support?  The first artists caught lip-syncing on stage were lambasted and ridiculed, but now that’s the way it’s done. Is that what we’re seeing with Lana, the first step in the next era of public illusion? After Lana, after she’s been made to break the ice, is this the way we’ll see artists in the future launched?

The pity is that the ’Born To Die’ album is quite interesting. Lana seems to have idea of the kind of mystique she wants to create. We should have been allowed to focus on that, to share her vision and allow her to evolve it. Already she’s talking about not making another album.  

How did it come to this? How could it go so wrong? Or is this the way it was meant to be, as inevitable at Whitley’s demise. Born to die.



December 30, 2009

American music industry legend Clive Davis is a survivor. He’s just survived again, even though his latest high profile project, the much-heralded comeback album for Whitney Houston ‘I Look To You’ is a relative failure. The 77-year old’s contract as Chief Creative Officer with Sony Music was up earlier this month, but he’s re-signed.

The story is not that Davis is prepared to carry on at his advanced years. The story is that despite the desire of others to get rid of Davis and attempts to discredit him as “too old” for the modern music business he has again dodged all the bullets.

 He is, as has been said, the Last Record Company Man. For good reasons and bad.

Some of the big names associated with Clive Davis are there purely by association, by virtue of his executive position with record companies. He got lucky – or showed his initiative – in 1969 when he attended the Monterey Pop Festival to hang out with his friends Simon and Garfunkel and the Mamas And Papas, he saw Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company as well as singer-songwriter Laura Nyro and signed both to recording contracts, stealing them from smaller labels. History says what a good move that was, but to put it into perspective, Monterey was a landmark event anyway, the first important outdoor rock festival. Canned Heat was discovered and signed by Liberty Records during the same three days. The Who and Jimi Hendrix gained a foothold with American audiences following their performances at Monterey and became superstars as a direct result. SOMETHING was going to happen to Janis Joplin no matter what. After her first performance she and the band were persuaded to perform again the following night so they could be filmed by D. A. Pennebaker for his document of the event.

Anyhow, Janis and others, including Clive Davis, became music legends from that day forward.

His world came crashing down in 1973 when CBS Records sacked Davis for financial impropriety, accused of using company funds to bankroll his son’s bar mitzvah. He quickly bounced back by merging three labels and creating Arista Records, whose biggest star would be Whitney Houston.

A very “hands on” record executive now emerged in Clive Davis. From the moment he spotted Whitney on stage with her mother in a New York City nightclub he groomed her to success, spending more than a year finding songs for her debut album as “executive producer”, probably another (questionable) Clive Davis legacy to the recording industry. He added a clause to Whitney’s contract that if he ever left Arista she would go with him. In 2000 Arista Records DID oust Davis, not because of any scandal this time, but in the industry’s first attempt to sideline him. He responded by getting BMG records to finance the formation of J Records with $150 million dollars. He brought with him an Arista signing who’d been overlooked, Alicia Keys. But Clive Davis major “contributions” to J Records was the rejuvenation of the careers of Santana and Rod Stewart. Santana was another of Clive Davis’ early signings. Davis now put Carlos Santana into the studio with the big names of the day to make him “creditable” again, made him hugely successful, more than ever before, but in fact a sideshow and caricature of himself on his own records. Rod Stewart he turned into a jukebox for the songs of yesterday. More recently he’s tried the same “trick” with Harry Connick Jr.

In the meantime, in April 2008, once again there were backroom moves made against Clive Davis. He was replaced as as chairman and chief executive officer of the BMG label group by a younger man. J Records had been swallowed up in the meantime in corporate manoeuvres. Clive Davis was handed a “creative” role – read “go away gracefully old man”

But he just won’t take the hint.


December 10, 2009

We all love a conspiracy theory, so why not contemplate one concerning the very noted Whitney Houston absence from the recent Grammy Award nominations. After all, Whitney’s ‘I Look At You’ was released specifically on the last day which allowed it to be eligible for the up-coming Grammys. Also, Whitney’s mentor Clive Davis holds a pre-Grammy party every year which has become one of the must-be-at events on the American music calendar. It was at last year’s Clive Davis party that Whitley’s orchestrated comeback was launched.

Clive Davis has a tempestuous relationship with the music industry. Famous for signing Janis Joplin, Santana and Billy Joel – yeah I know you’ve heard it a million times – and then discovering and overseeing Whitney Houston’s career, there’s been a not too secret campaign to push him out of the picture as being too old – he’s 77 now – but Clive keeps pulling rabbits out of the hat flying in the face of those who want him out of the way.

So, back to Whitney and the Grammys.

Clive Davis’ current contract runs out this month. He would have been a hero yet again if he’d successfully rehabilitated and reinvented his biggest star. Whitney’s comeback album is released to much fanfare (tick). It reaches No.1 (tick). January 10 sees the release of the 25th anniversary deluxe edition of the debut album (tick). Theoretically the Grammys would have been the crowning moment in what appears to be a well-hatched marketing strategy. But not one nomination. (Cross)

Has the American music industry finally found a way of stopping the “Clive Davis Factor”? Party poopers!