Saturday, June 15, 2024

Happy 90th Birthday Clive Davis, Music Man, Family Man, Friend: The Hits Keep on Coming


Today, Clive Davis celebrates his 90th birthday.

Tomorrow, and Wednesday, Clive’s friends will fete him with not one but two different kinds of galas.

The first will take place on NYU’s Brooklyn campus tomorrow night, where a new gallery exhibition will open at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.

On Wednesday, the action moves to Casa Cipriani downtown for a seated dinner of Clive’s family and his closest A list pals. People are flying in from everywhere, all the top musicians, actors, etc. It’s going to be a blow out although no one will tell me the actual names. That’s how secret it is.

But you can guess who’s coming, even though it won’t be Paul Simon– he has to be in Los Angeles for a Grammy special that’s taping on the same night. But I’d look for Patti Smith, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, and so on. I’m nervous to say it aloud, but Bruce and his own Patti (Scialfa) are sure to be on hand. Barry Manilowwill be there if he’s not setting some record in Las Vegas.

It’s been my privilege to know Clive for many decades. When I was a teenager I used to read about him in Cashbox (that was the really good industry bible before Billboard). He was running Columbia Records, which just had hit after hit and all the best records, from Janis Joplin to Earth Wind & Fire and Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Sly & the Family Stone. I mean, it never stopped.

Then Clive started Arista Records in 1974, taking over Bell Records, home of the Fifth Dimension. Manilow was huge from day 1, and then a cavalcade of hits came. I remember sitting through a five hour 15th celebration of Arista in 1989 with so many stars and more hits– and that was a decade before Santana and Rob Thomas, Alicia Keys, and all the rest of them. Insane!

Clive at 90 is surrounded by close friends and an adoring family. He’s famous for his vacations on land and sea, for hosting very old pals — like back to high school or more — while at the same time some famous songwriter or legendary performer is cheek by jowl. (I like it when he says, You do know who that is, don’t you?) He’s always sartorially splendid, too. His custom make jackets put those red carpet models to shame!

Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, Clive at 89 hosted so many events and had so many plans, I couldn’t believe it. While everyone else had gone underground, it was Clive who filled our social calendars in person or virtually. Amazing. The result is that now he has a Paramount Plus TV series of all his Zoom interviews with legends. Of course!

To do all this, it’s not that you’re powerful or rich. To pull it all off, you must be loved. And this is true about Clive, His enthusiasm is so infectious that a whole word of interesting people gravitate to him. His reciprocation is total, which is hard to do when you’ve got four children, a bunch of grandchildren, and a nine decade history. But I love the times when I get a phone call and it’s Clive saying, “I’m just thinking about something and I knew you would know.” It makes you feel special, but I’ll tell you– I think he does that with about a hundred people. And means it.

It’s been quite a ride, and it’s not over. I’ll never forget this: hanging around onstage in Central Park last fall during a hurricane, hoping the rain would stop so his star-studded “Welcome Back, New York” concert might resume. Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, and Barry Manilow were had been preserved in a large shed for hours just in case nature acquiesced. The rain very briefly died down and I had to make a run for it. The garage I’d parked in was going to close.

“Where are you going?” he demanded.

“I’m sorry, I have to leave,” I replied.

Clive looked at me as I ran off and said, shaking his head in disbelief, “Now, just when things are getting good?”

And things are indeed just getting good.

Happy Birthday, Clive!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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