So, how does a nice Jewish boy from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York go from being a Harvard educated lawyer to becoming one of the most successful music industry moguls in the history of the business? A quick run through the pages of The Soundtrack of My Life the autobiography of Clive Davis and you’ll get a red carpet glimpse of the incredible and storied career of a true titan of the music business.
For a guy who has gone through a series of meteoric rises and nearly as dramatic falls, Davis has an amazing memory from which he recounts his climb from first rung of the legal department to running Columbia Records at what would be a pivotal moment as it transitions from the home of successful middle of the road acts to being the home to a veritable rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame wing.
The names, the tales, the internal battles and the dynamic style that Davis brought to the business and while it’s been attempted, it’s never quite been duplicated, is all here. Davis has had a hand in discovering, signing or guiding to greater success the careers of: Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Simon & Garfunkel, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Whitney Houston, Chicago, Johnny Cash, Santana (not once, but twice), Sly & the Family Stone, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Grateful Dead and many, many more.
He recalls with fascinating detail the process and back story of many of his personal interactions with artists and in the case of Janis Joplin an offer of a very personal interaction to seal the deal if you will. Davis doesn’t shy away from telling his side of the story about his dramatic departure from Columbia Records at a point that many would say was the peak of his first round of success. While clearly stung by the accusations against him and the media’s coverage of those allegations, Davis finally has his day in these pages.
While many would have been destroyed by this kind of episode, Davis deftly bounced back forming Arista Records and continuing on to even greater success. While at times coming off as more than a bit self-obsessed, what mogul worth his salt isn’t self-obsessed, Davis lards on the detail of his salary, his homes and his lavish mogul lifestyle.Anyone familiar with the stories of the titans of the music industry know that these are not people cut from ordinary cloth; they are extremely creative, dynamic risk takers who are willing to roll the dice in search of a jackpot. Certainly that is a mantle that Clive Davis would be comfortable wearing. While these folks are often cited for the positive impact they have on the artists they guide, they are also bound to rankle a few folks along the way and make enemies along the way. Davis has his share of both, but clearly his track record of success makes it clear that the positives outweigh the negatives.