What could inspire numerous Grammy-winning recording artists to convene under the same roof for one night?
One answer: legendary record producer Clive Davis.
“Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives” premiered Wednesday evening at Radio City Music Hall. The film is based on Davis’ 2013 autobiography. The two-hour documentary directed by Chris Perkel opened New York City’s 16th Annual TriBeca Film Festival.
Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Carly Simon, Jennifer Hudson, Earth,Wind and Fire and Kenny G performed a special concert following the screening. Davis is known for shaping careers of innumerable recording artists: Santana, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin (the first artist Davis signed in 1967), Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead and Whitney Houston, who all make appearances through video clips throughout the briskly paced documentary.
Arguably the most poignant moments in the film include Davis’s explaining that he wrote a letter to his protegee, Whitney Houston, after seeing the almost skeletal singer perform on a televised tribute to Michael Jackson in 2001. Davis reads a letter he sent her urging her to get help for her addiction. Later in the film, Davis explains that after Houston heard he would appear at the 2004 World Music Awards, the singer asked to appear in the show. He explains that he told her, “Whitney the last time I saw you, you looked like a skeleton.” Houston insisted to the record executive that she was doing much better and could handle performing.
Without missing a beat, following the screening, the concert began with Whoopi Goldberg acting as emcee. Barry Manilow burst onto the stage performing a high-spirited medley of his greatest hits. Among them: “Can’t Smile Without You,” “Mandy”, “Copacobana”, “Ready To Take A Chance Again,” “It’s a Miracle, “I Made It Through The Rain,” “Daybreak,” and “I Write The Songs.”
Jennifer Hudson sauntered onto stage to deliver a soulful version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” She followed up with a Whitney Houston tribute medley that included “I’m Every Woman,” “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”. She left the stage and made her way over to Davis with whom she danced playfully.
The Rhythm and Blues group Earth, Wind and Fire sang “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “Wish Upon a Star,” “September” and “The Way You Move”, accompanied by Kenny G on saxophone.
Dionne Warwick followed up with her 1979 hit and first song recorded at Arista while headed by Davis: “I’ll Never Love This Way Again”. She finished her two-song set with “That’s What Friends Are For.”
Singer-songwriter Carly Simon sang “Coming Around Again” accompanied by her son Ben on guitar. A choir of children wearing colorful t-shirts joined them onstage to sing “Isty Bitsy Spider.”
Aretha Franklin, who signed with Davis’s Arista Records in 1980, closed the concert. Davis is credited with reviving the Queen of Soul’s recording career. Before singing, Franklin praised the honoree: “He’s not only a chieftain who sits in the executive office and takes care of all the business, he takes care of his artists as well.” Franklin then showed why she is one of the recording industry’s most respected artists with her gospel-infused rendition of “Natural Woman” and “Freeway of Love.”
Love of the industry keeps the 85-year old music business whiz going. He says he isn’t about to take it easy simply because he has received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award and is featured in this new documentary.
Davis recently told the New York Times, “I’m looking for hits for Jennifer Hudson, looking for hits for a new artist, Avery Wilson and coming up with a concept album for Johnny Mathis, who still sings great.
That’s the Lowdown.
For more about the woman whose recording career Clive Davis is credited with resurrecting, click on this link: