In many ways, Clive and Doug Davis are just like any other loving father-son pair: they travel together, celebrate holidays and, since they are both in the music business, collaborate on various industry-related projects such as Clive’s 2013 autobiography “The Soundtrack of My Life” and its companion documentary, “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives,” for which Doug produced the premiere opening night party at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, a fete that included a screening of the film for 6,000 people and a live concert featuring Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, Carly Simon, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
“When I see Sony come up on my cell phone, I don’t know if it’s real business and I should answer or if it’s a sneak attack from my dad,” jokes Doug of their close relationship.
One of the most gratifying professional partnerships Davis and his father get to experience is the annual Clive Davis’ and the Recording Academy’s pre-Grammy gala — a party that Clive has hosted since 1976 and that Doug has produced for the past decade. Considered one of the hottest tickets in town, the 2018 event was held in New York City for the first time in 15 years, with 1,000 guests in attendance, including Grammy nominees, top music biz executives and rock royalty ranging from Joni Mitchell to Jay-Z and Beyonce.
“The party is a tremendous amount of work, but it’s also a huge reward for me personally because of the camaraderie I get to have with my father,” says Doug. “When you put on an event it’s like going to war. and we have a battle-tested relationship. I get to speak to him four times a day during Grammy season; I’m closer to my father as an adult than I was as a child. I know people generally don’t have that same relationship with their parents. He’s become one of my best friends. He’s not just a business mentor — he’s the first person I turn to for advice.”
While pulling off a celebrity-studded affair, the Davis brood has consistently succeeded. This year, even former Vice President Joe Biden was angling for a ticket to the soiree at the Sheraton Times Square.
“The best moments from these Grammy parties are the unexpected ones,” says Doug. “With every live event there is the risk of someone falling out, or they get sick, especially when it’s in New York and it’s cold. This year, we did a Broadway segment with Ben Platt doing a number from ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ and Leslie Odom Jr. doing ‘The Room Where It Happens’ from ‘Hamilton,’ and we had a third number but that fell out. So we went to the guest list and said, ‘who’s coming and who can step in and bring the room to its feet?’ And we saw Gladys Knight. Knowing that she did ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe,’ which was one of the most successful reviews of its kind, we reached out to her and she jumped in at the last moment. She sang ‘Stand by Me,’ and then my father would not let her leave the stage without doing ‘Midnight Train to Georgia.’ The room was clapping and crying and going nuts.”
Other stand-out moments in Grammy party history include the time Justin Timberlake got sick and Smokey Robinson got pulled off the red carpet to sing.
“That’s my favorite, when you’re in the moment, without planning, and you figure it out together,” says Davis. “Gladys will always be one those legendary party moments. It was a sea of people — Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld, Rob Reiner, Jamie Foxx — and everybody is singing along. That moment, for everybody there, was a lifetime memory.”