Morning Joe | February 25, 2013
>>> welcome back to " morning joe ." here with us now, the man behind powerhouse voices like janice joplin , whitney houston and bruce springsteen , music mogul and chief creative officer of sony music entertainment , clive davis . also the author of the new book "the soundtrack of my life." it is such a pleasure to have you on the show. my daughters an i watch you on "idol." you've reached a new generation of tweens.
>> they may not appreciate this picture as much as mike and i would right here. three boys from the outer boroughs right there with simon and garfunkel , 1970 . but your career is remarkable and it started in a remarkable way. you went to the monterey pop festival where janice and so many others just exploded on to the scenes. and that was your first big find, wasn't it?
>> that was my first test. i came from not a musical background and through a political reorganization i was a lawyer for columbia and i was made president overnight and when you do that --
>> that's a good jump, isn't it?
>> you observe, then a year later i thought i was going to be entertained and i found myself in the midst of a musical cultural revolution . i'm on those fairground in the midst of haight- ashbury and janice joplin and big brother and the holding company holds on. she was this vibrating, electrifying, compelling white soul sister. if the word epiphany is going to mean anything, for me it was -- i had to make my first creative move. there were no other executives there. i had to sign my first artist.
>> what was your hunch about going to monterey ? everybody talks about woodstock. yes, that was a watershed event but that really marked the end of an era . monterey , the festival that you went to --
>> i had a record, it was the first record, hit, that i had. if you go to san francisco , be sure to wear flowers in your hair. that was a hint that what was going on at haight- ashbury in san francisco . i really went there expecting to see the mamas and papas, to see simon and garfunkel . i was not prepared for the musical revolution of the electification of the guitar, groups like the electric flag , the who, jimi hendrix and this brand-new group featuring janice joplin . so it changed the rest of my life.
>> but, you know, as you indicated, you went to harvard law school .
>> you grew up probably walking down the street singing frankie valley songs and frank sinatra --
>> factor in brooklyn. not just harvard law school .
>> so what is it? what was it within you that you're at the monterey music festival and haight- ashbury and you hear the san francisco songs and you hear these groups and electric guitars . what was in you that enabled you to say --
>> it was an undiscovered gift that was going to prove itself over the years that i saw this artist, and whether it's cliche or not, i got this tingle in my spine. i felt it and it was just something that was to come again and again over the years. but she was the first one and i bought her contract. and when she and big brother a year later was making it, by that time i signed blood, sweat and tears, few months later santana, and i started to trust obviously my track record was starting to unfold and --
>> you trusted your instincts. you can't buy that. people ask where that comes from. whether it's music, whether it's movies, whether it's tv. you either have the gut or you don't have the gut. how many executives have we all seen, whether -- whatever media world it is -- where they just wring their hands and they're trying to guess and they spend all their time saying i'm going to pick this person but if they fail i can blame such and such because they don't have the gut.
>> that's true.
>> when did you first figure out, okay, i got this.
>> as i was just saying, when a year later i unveiled -- because i kept it quiet that i had signed blood, sweat and tears and janice and they started to make it more through the fm underground. and then very soon thereafter came carlos, the santana band , and chicago, johnny winter and edgar winter and earth, wind and fire so that i felt that i might have an unexplored natural gift.
>> these weren't safe picks either. i mean blood, sweat and tears, a band i love. but you wouldn't say, you know what? that's the next big thing. and when i die, so many great songs. "spinning wheel." amazing. look at this picture right here. a young whitney houston when she's signing, mika.
>> tell us about the loss of whitney houston . she was quite a superstar.
>> i signed whitney when she was 19. i immediately brought her on national tv on the merv griffin show . i said that for the next generation she would be the big, big new talent. so that from then on, she was just not an artist that i signed in my administration. i found with my staff every song that whitney recorded. so we went through the heights of an incredible career breaking every single record at every stage. obviously we all know that she fell victim to drugs, powerful, lethal force . i describe in my book how i both approached her, reasoned with her, wrote to her. and you learn, helplessly, that until the subject falls to a certain level, they've got to help themselves. i was with her two days, three days before she died. we had a fabulous afternoon, playing music as we always did for each other. neither of us could possibly have comprehended that she was flirting with death.
>> you know, that's what's fascinating. right? have you this special ear to recognize a great talent, but there is the whole element of managing and involving yourself with that talent as they go through their careers. right? there's two things. recognizing the greatness, then helping it steward itself through their life. what's different between the janice joplin era and managing that talent and managing talent in 2013 ? because people talk about the entitlement generation and all these other things. but is it really that different?
>> for a record company , i'm not a manager. i'm very involved, more involved if i'm dealing with entertainers that need me for material as compared to self-contained orders to write their own material. and there you wait. i had -- you wait for a patty smith whom i also signed or currently an a alicia keys , a young renaissance great talent so that there isn't difference as i interact with them. i mean you don't get into their personal life unless there is a crisis that develops.
>> so given how the music industry has changed, do you have any -- you may not -- any advice for parents of struggling up and coming song writers or singers? i speak as one myself.
>> i view music very positively. you're dwelling on it from a tragedy and i understand that. and there have been a few. but i don't think it is endemic --
>> i'm actually just tryi talking about trying to break in. how do you tell a child that wants to break in.
>> life's been very good to me. i've endowed a student in my name so students can study music. i always envied those that studies movies at usc or nyu. at nyu there is this institute to train them, to get as much input. if music is part of the passion of your child, let it flow . i mean -- and see where it takes you. it's been an incredible career for me. on the other hand, if it's a mediocre talent that's just ambitious, you you've got to be able to guide that, because music , show business , is very seductive and you can waste an awful lot of your life pursuing something that's just okay for you. so you really have got to be on top and be realistic, not be a stage parent but really see if you've got a gifted child .
>> fantastic advice.
>> i'm going to get serious about tv. i keep thinking i'm going to break through. i need to go to school.
>> he wants toob songwriter.
>> i've heard that.
>> it's true.
>> you know what? i'm going to get serious and get another career.
>> the new book is "the soundtrack of my life." clive davis . thank you so much!
>> how exciting. thank you for being here. great honor.
>> well thank you so much.
>>> coming up next, oh, god, things go downhill from here. lewis schmoozes his way on to the red carpet . i don't even want to tell you what he did to get to the red carpet at the " vanity fair " oscar