Clive Davis has played a key role in some of the biggest careers in pop music, including ‘60s rock icons Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Carlos Santana as well as pop and R&B; hitmakers Barry Manilow, Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys. He’s long and consistently expressed the importance of finding first-rate songs, whether the artists come up with them on their own or they look to other writers.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise he’s harbored a lifelong affection to stage musicals and is working toward producing a revival of the 1950s Lerner and Loewe classic “My Fair Lady” for Broadway with a target date of 2014.
“I always wanted to produce a Broadway show, and I’ve never done it,” said Davis, 80. He sat down for an interview this week in his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which he likes to call his “Grammy party war room” while mapping out his annual pre-Grammy Awards all-star bash that will take place this year at the Beverly Hilton.
“I’m hopeful we will prepare and finalize everything this year to bring ‘My Fair Lady’ next year to Broadway with a stellar cast,” he said. “I don’t want to jinx myself, but we’re in discussions with two magnificent performers and a wonderful director to do that.”
Davis noted that early in his career he was a lawyer at Columbia Records around the time the label had released hit Broadway original cast albums for “My Fair Lady” as well as “West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music” and many others.
“When I made that unforeseen transition from being a lawyer to being a record man, I was a lawyer for Goddard Lieberson and Columbia Records,” he said. “I came post-‘West Side Story’ and ‘My Fair Lady,’ but I came during the ‘Cabaret’-era of great Broadway musicals.
“I was always hoping that the tradition of great musicals giving birth to songs that are part of the fabric of our culture would continue. But that has not happened. We’ve had hit Broadway shows, but the scores have not really been up to that golden-era tradition.
“So since that has not occurred, I really want to make sure that the greatest musical of all time — which to me is ‘My Fair Lady’ — can show once again why a classic can be as meaningful half a century later as it was when it originally opened. I look forward to that.”
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