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Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives (2017)

A look at the life and work of music producer, Clive Davis.

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A look at the life and work of music producer, Clive Davis.

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27 September 2017 (USA)  »

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Detailed but not too deep history of a music industry icon
3 October 2017 | by See all my reviews

This documentary is a detailed look at the career of Clive Davis, an icon in the music industry. He brought Columbia Records into Rock (Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen), co-founded Arista records (1st act was Barry Manilow) creating hit records for over 40 years and showing an amazing ability to change with the times. The documentary is primarily chronological, briefly mentioning his childhood and early career, moving quickly to when he became President of Columbia Records - a job he never imagined getting. It is then mostly about the hit acts he found with stories by employees, artists, some critics, competing executives, Davis himself, and much wonderful archive footage. Because there is so much to cover (Janis Joplin to Alicia Keys) the music is in small clips - you don't get full songs. But you know so many of the songs that you fill in the context yourself. His relationship with Whitney Houston (almost a father-daughter connection) occupies a significant part of the film, including her decline and tragic death.

Since Davis participated in the film any criticisms of him are mild. There is almost nothing about his personal life. And while some commentators say that Clive always had suggestions about changing the elements of a song (more drums, more vocal, etc.) there is no explanation of how he does this - I would like to no more about his instincts and how he interprets them. There is also nothing about how the music industry (including radio) changed over his career - he had a unique view being a key player for so long and probably has many interesting insights. But this film still gives quite a look at how one man - a lawyer with no aspirations towards the music business - was such a huge force in popular music for decades.


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