Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Musings About a Music Mogul

By Kimberly Johnson

I had no intention of reading The Soundtrack of My Life, music mogul Clive Davis’ biography. I assumed it was a mea culpa about the late Whitney Houston. It wasn’t. It was a handcrafted tale of how a Harvard law grad working at Columbia Records in the late ‘50s, transformed the record industry by becoming the producer-manager-confidante to folks like Simon & Garfunkel and Alicia Keyes. I thought it was an industry insider’s regretful recount of a pop diva. It wasn’t. For me, it was about a storyteller (Davis) and a story writer (Anthony DeCurtis). Anthony DeCurtis, a 30 year veteran of Rolling Stone magazine, employs the simplest of writing techniques to recreate the venerable Brooklynite’s rollercoaster life.

Rollercoaster ride 1: ‘ 70s icon Barry Manilow. DeCurtis chronicled the music lawyer’s tempestuous “handling” of the songwriter. By infusing a casual tone, the author made me feel like I was there when Davis and Manilow slugged it out over Mandy, a song that Manilow detested. Davis won: 1974’s Mandy catapulted Manilow into the stratosphere.

Rollercoaster ride 2: American Idol runner ups Clay Aiken and Chris Daughtry. DeCurtis glosses over the producer’s “I know what’s best for you” attitude by portraying Davis as a veteran trying to mentor neophytes.

Rollercoaster ride 3: Whitney Houston. DeCurtis threads the needle on a sensitive subject: Houston’s career and untimely death. He helps the producer to combat the Svengali “handling” of Houston by portraying him as a father figure that was unaware of her demons.

I thought those rollercoaster rides were enough. They weren’t. Davis’ pre-Grammy parties and peccadillos added to the ride. I recommend you get this book.

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