Clive Davis is an American record producer, executive and music industry executive. He has won multiple Grammy awards and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer. From 1967-72 he was the President of Columbia Records, was the founder and president of Arista Records in the late 1970s through 2000 until founding J Records. From 2002 until April 2008, Davis was the Chairman and CEO of the RCA Music Group, 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 Worldwide. He currently plays a part in the careers of Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Harry Connick, Jr., Leona Lewis, Barry Manilow, and Whitney Houston.
Davis was born in Brooklyn, New York to a Jewish family, the son of Herman and Florence Davis. After spending four of his earliest years in England, Davis was raised in the middle-class neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He received a full scholarship to New York University College of Arts and Science, where he graduated 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. He 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 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.
Davis became a protegé of CBS Records President Goddard Lieberson, and began to climb the ranks of Columbia/CBS. In 1967, he became president of Columbia Records 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, Jimmie Spheeris, Electric Flag, Santana, The Chambers Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, Andy Pratt, Chicago, Billy Joel, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Pink Floyd. The company, which had previously avoided rock music, doubled its market share in three years. One of the biggest 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 between 1971 and 1997.