When someone offers you a ticket to not only see not only a Clive Davis documentary AND performance by some of music’s greatest legends at Radio City Music Hall, you drop everything you’re doing, rearrange your schedule, and take the ticket.
And that’s how I found myself in the presence of greatness this past Wednesday as the Tribeca Film Festival kicked off it’s 2017 season with a screening of the documentary Clive Davis: Soundtrack to Our Lives.
If you’re over the age of 30 and have any interest in music, then the name Clive Davis will certainly ring a bell. The man has had a hand in the careers of artists as diverse as Barry Manilow to Biggie Smalls.
The documentary itself does it’s best job of chronicling the over 60 year career of Davis, through the words of his artists, advisories, and the man himself.
Working with independent artists for the past 10 years, music label moguls were seen as the bad guy, the unfurling gatekeeper denying artists a shot at success. This documentary, however, does it’s best to circumvent that, showing Davis as a father figure for many of his artists and the interviews (and the later performances) show nothing but praise for Davis, something that not everybody in the music industry can claim.
The documentary painted Clive as a rarity, someone who was able to not only predict the 60s counterculture movement, but the rise of hip-hop in the 90s and even American Idol in the 00s. Even the haters have to be impressed.
The last half of the doc focuses extensively on Clive’s relationship with Whitney Houston. To some, it was out of place, but for me it felt like one of the more balanced and touching tributes to the singer that I’ve seen in media. There was no sensationalism here, and Clive and those around him were open about their naivety surrounding her drug use, which was unexpected.
After the screening, the party began, with a concert by Barry Manilow, Earth, Wind & Fire, Dionne Warwick, Carly Simon, Aretha Franklin, and Jennifer Hudson, who performed a decidedly upbeat tribute to Houston.
The concert itself was worth the price of admission (when are you going to see Aretha at Radio City again??), but what struck me is the love that every artist had for the man who basically invented or reinvented their careers. There was so much love in the building (which is sometimes unusual for industry types), and each performance felt directed more towards Clive than the audience at large (which was not a bad thing!).
Later, at the afterparty, I sat and watched in awe as Clive worked the room. This dude was taking a much deserved victory lap, but the look in his eye show someone who isn’t retiring soon.
Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives is screening at Tribeca Film Festival, and will be available via Apple Music soon.