Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, and Paul Simon are household names to generations of people around the world. However, all of these superstars and many more are indebted to a native son of Brooklyn who discovered their talent and helped to share it with the world.
Clive Davis is one of the most prolific figures in the music industry, having worked at the tops of record labels like Columbia, Arista, and RCA. This past week, he was honored by Mayor Bill de Blasio with a Key to the City — New York’s highest public honor — as a part of the City Hall in Your Borough event.
Before presenting the key, de Blasio recounted his own experiences with Clive Davis and the music he helped discover.
“I was listening to an amazing song last night from Bruce Springsteen, from his second album ‘The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle,’ a song named ‘New York City Serenade,’” he said. “I remember when I first heard that song and it moved me to my core.
“Bruce and so many other amazing artists came to our attention because of Clive Davis,” de Blasio added. “Clive managed to find some of the greatest talent in the world and helped to bring their poetry and creativity to the forefront so it could be shared.”
Born in 1932, Clive Davis grew up in Park Slope, where he attended P.S. 161 before going on to study at Erasmus High School and NYU. Davis recalled how his experiences and education in Brooklyn informed his personal development and future career.
Throughout the course of his career, Clive Davis has won five Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I got the best advice in life I ever got from my mother,” he said. “She said book learning and academics are fabulous, but the best part of life is going out and mixing with people, learning from people, and seeing the diversity of people,” Davis explained, in his ever-present Brooklyn accent. “So I went out every day. I remember stickball on Union Street, football in Prospect Park, and going every weekend to see my grandparents in Brighton Beach.
“The makeup of this city and its incredible diversity helped me grow and gave me an openness to many points of view,” he added. “I would not have had this career that I enjoyed so much without New York City.”
The mayor also thanked Davis for helping to organize the NYC Homecoming series of concerts this past summer, which were meant to celebrate the city’s return after the pandemic.
Although the series’ marquee concert in Central Park was cancelled due to rain (it was scheduled for the rainiest day on record in the city’s history, in fact), multiple smaller concerts went off without a hitch throughout the five boroughs, thanks in large part to Clive Davis’ organization skills and industry contacts.
“Clive is someone who has created so much joy and hope in the world,” de Blasio said. “I am remembering the extraordinary actions this summer when we needed to show that the city was back and give people hope and spirit.”