Tag Archive: Clive Davis

Somewhere, a photographer or record company photo portfolio has a picture of [the now late] Whitney Houston, Clive Davis, actor James Woods and me from the night I fell out of “crush” with a songstress.

In December of 1991, I was the Attendance Teacher (spelled “truant officer”) for the Special Ed kids at a high school just north of New York City, who still had his heart set on being back on the radio as a DJ as I had been for the past fifteen years at that juncture. All of my co-teachers and supervisors knew this about me, and it is probably why I they let me leave work early that afternoon so I could go home, shower, prep and get clean for the Whitney Houston album release party that one of my record promotion friends of the day, Ashleigh Sanford, of Arista Records, invited me to.

Her recent tragically and apparently un-timed/un-planned death reminded me that I had not included this episode of my “famous” life in the memoir book I published last year. So now you know there will be a “part two” as long as I stay alive to write it.
Ya want the “juicy” stuff: That night, I arrived solo at Tatou restaurant by day and nightclub by night back then, which my memory tells me is on East 50th near Park or Madison Avenues in Manhattan (my favorite rock in the world so far) New York City.
That night the lamb roast dinner I slurped was exquisite! I met pro footballers Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants, Randall Cunningham of the Philadelphia Eagles (who the tabloids had as just having broken-up with Whitney), Ms. “Downtown” Julie Brown who was hosting a late-night music countdown show or something like that at the time, and other celebs like Samuel L Jackson. [Yes I have to ‘name-drop’ so you know I am not bullspittin!lol

After dinner, we migrated upstairs in Tatou, which is a haunt that I used to love to sneak into upon the freebie of my radio station, friend, record company promotion person (as in this night) or just my stone-cold reputation as “Lenny” Bruce. (Yes the door-people thought I was a dead guy). The party experience is intimate there and the “VIP” area accessible for me, an experienced “on-location” reporter. I just knew that I was going to get Ms. Houston to speak with me into my “on-location” voice recorder as I had previous celebs like Freddie Hubbard, Grace Jones and (almost) Chaka Khan and others on this night. After all, that is why my supervisors at the High School gave me the afternoon off!

So suddenly I find myself within the body language of Whitney Houston, who I had to now suddenly summon-up all of the DJ/radio personality bravado I could muster in-order to be able to talk to her like an unruffled professional. This is where my basic boyhood shyness usually reappears, but somehow, maybe because I had on my best double-breasted blue pin-striped suit and felt in the same “club” as all the aforementioned superstars, I was able to step to her, relaxed and confident.

So here is what happened next, in the sequence that I can recall it now, twenty-one years later (but like “yesterday”).
After mingling and working the room as I always did at Tatou,, upstairs and downstairs, I spot Mr. Davis and sashay towards then; Whitney is emerging from the draped, curtained-off VIP towards us. I try to act non-nonchalant like I did not notice her…I get a beverage handed to me by someone of the many I knew at the party…I am introduced to Mr. Woods as Whitney is lingering with Mr. Davis off in my peripheral vision until a photographer suddenly appears and urges us to scrunch together so he can get a shot. We do; he does and then the DJ introduces the strains of Anita Ward’s classic disco hit, “Ring My Bell” to the din. At which point I am talking to Mr. Woods, who walks away and just as magically as I look back to my right, Whitney Houston is like shimmying and looking at me. “C’mon Jimi!” is what I remember what she said sounding like and the next thing I know, I am dancing like I always knew it was going to work-out this way with the “somebody” who sang “With Somebody Who Loves Me!” to Anita Ward music. “How Surreal is this?!”, I thought!

Then just as abruptly as we cavorted Terpsichore, Whitney bounced away from me and when I turned back from one of my famous “spin moves” she was off, mingling back among her adoring fans near the bar.
From that moment, what I noticed that night as I futilely tried to stay within her orbit, were two things that I’ve carried away ever since: Whitney preferred the Hip Hop guys to an “Arsinio hall-style clean” brother like me and that her lexicon was surprisingly impious. Having met her prim and proper Mum, Cissy Houston, one evening at Sweetwaters on Amsterdam Avenue a few years prior, Whitney’s potty mouth surprised me and turned me off, turning my pedestal-infatuation into that of a spectator which must have lasted until last Saturday evening when, at the tale-end of a computer tutor session with my neighbor, we saw the headline on Yahoo. I “didn’t believe it” like many have professed, yet at the same time, I was not surprised.
I guess I will have to write a “part two” or “b-side” to my memoir book. What is your favorite Whitney Houston song or memory?

That night some of us went “along for the ride”; after dancing with and observing her that night, I got off of the ride.
Thank you! Спасибо! for reading.

                                   It is always ominous when a huge star’s “people” keep secret what bad things are happening to them.  Recently, Aretha Franklin had a secret surgery that nobody wants to tell us exactly what organ the surgery was performed upon. I guess that is her perogative; however, when you are an icon, with millions of adoring admirers around the globe, I believe you owe them more respect than a vague press release, or some bulls*** from Jesse Jackson.  Maybe they surgeried some of that weight off of her! It isn’t embarrassing to be less than perfect anymore, yet slimmer is better for your heart.

It is obvious to me that Aretha Franklin’s health is in trouble; pancreatic cancer is the “word”.  Two of my radio mentors passed away due to that, “Hmmm”.  As I have said previously, I’d rather not write about her posthumously, choosing to send my recollections from my collection with the hope that they reach her hospital bed and possibly aid her recuperation and longevity because she is one of my first favorites!

“Ree-Ree” (as I heard one of my radio mentors call her affectionately), my Mum even says you’ve gained too much weight, by the way! Mum can say that, she is eighty-six at the time of this post.  Funny thing about that to me is that at first she did not want me to listen to your hit music, “Respect” when I was a boy, calling it “gut-bucket music”.  Fortunately, those kinds of protestations from my parents just made me want to defy them more and get into your music.

When I think of Aretha Franklin, I see that classic black and red (unless a promo copy) Atlantic Records label even though she recorded on several major record companies.  My first of hers was “Respect”, (wouldn’t you know it) followed by “Chain Of Fools” and “Spanish Harlem” as I dig though my boxes of 45s (45rpm vinyls, for you who are too young).  The first album I added to my collection was 1970’s “Aretha Live At Fillmore West” – still in excellent condition, thank you – which featured the late Billy Preston on organ, Ray Charles and King Curtis on tenor saxophone among other members of an all-star band behind her.

Aretha Franklin always brings to my mind the great musicians that she has worked with through the years.  Cats like Cornell Dupree on guitar, The Memphis Horns, and since I was a novice drummer back during her early hits, drummers like Grady Tate and especially Bernard “Pretty” Purdie,  who really defined the rhythm of her sound on tracks like the 1971 smash, “Rock Steady”, or how he wore it out behind one of Aretha’s classic, classicly clear vamps til the fade on her 1973 “Master Of Eyes”. 

Perdie’s signature snare-to-high hat accents always let me know that he was on the set.   Fortunately I have had the privilege of meeting Mr. Dupree and hanging out many nights with Mr. Tate over the past twenty years in Manhattan (The ole “Possible Twenty”!).  I still hope I can do an interview with The Queen Of Soul before her time soon comes.

Almost everybody knows the words to an Aretha Franklin hit song.  I was at a holiday party just the other night where we all broke into the lyrics of another one from ’73, “Until You Come Back To Me, (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” penned by Stevie Wonder! (I bet you didn’t know that!)

I grew-up with Ms. Franklin’s music on WWRL AM,WLIB AM/FM and WBLS FM (Program Director Frankie Crocker always played album cuts from her, not just the singles) in New York City, a phenomenon of style the made inroads on radio formats across the U.S. and across the great pond.  Therefore, I’m going to be kind of all over the place here if I don’t get a grip, as Aretha conjures so many different situations, hits , emotions and memories from my musical mind.  Admittedly she came up in an era where the competition of talent was the toughest and the dealings between major record labels was fiercest.  Most of the “soul” artist stars were on Motown, and here Aretha came as an equal in every way to the Gordy’s stable.   Mentored and chaperoned by the best including Arif Mardin, Jerry Wexler and Clive Davis,  a session with her recording must have been pure magic!

Aretha was kind of an afterthought with me as a teenager; she was always “there” in the background of the scene as most of the “great ones” are, until she would put something new out, and then “BANG!” we’d be right back singing to her songs and dancing to her energy within the beat.  There are too many songs to name here, so let’s quickly see what else I have in my vinyl crates: “With Everything I Feel In Me” is the 1974 album with one of her sexiest covers, wearing nothing but what looks like a mink stole under that neat Afro hairdo.  Everything she touched on this album brought a fresh feeling, and I loved her rendition of Bacharach and David’s “You’ll Never Get To Heaven”.   She always seems to really enjoy her voice and the things she can do with those lungs as proved by the acapella end solo on that cut. 

The next album in my collection is “You” released in 1975 which featured “Mr. D.J.(5 For The D.J.)” [obviously dedicated to yours, truly] an homage to the burgeoning trend of disco  jocks back then, “It Only Happens (When I look At You)”, a Tom Scott saxophone solo on “Without You”, which was also released as a single, and Ree-Ree’s excellent soft touch on the late Van McCoy’s “Walk Softly”.  You can tell she was jamming with a new bunch of musicians on this album – they were not as soulful as the previous albums were, but not a bad change necessarily.  I see that I underlined Whitney’s mum, Cissy Houston on the back of the album noted among the background singers!  Aretha would lay down a good monologue to introduce her songs every so often, too!

I don’t want to keep you up all night, and this is the internet, so let me say the remaining Aretha albums in my vinyl library are the widely successful 1976 movie soundtrack “Sparkle” featuring “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” “La Diva”, a  rare stiff from 1979 with another sexy cover photo, the jazzy “Aretha Sings The Blues”, which looks like a 1985 “ree-release” (couldn’t resist that one) of some early 1960s songs  on Columbia Records.  It is either nightclub material or they added the “feel” of an audience in the background with sfx.  Last-but-you-know-what, the 1982 album produced by the late Luther Vandross which includes two of my all-time favorite jams, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” and the title track floor-filler, “Jump To It” – I’ve even got the “12-inch” D.J. versions! 

So, what is your favorite Aretha song? You  may most recently remember her from President Obama’s inauguration day when she sported that stylish gray brim while giving proper “respect” to “America The Beautiful”, but let’s just talk hit music here. Prayers and blessings to the Queen.  We are pulling for you to stay around a while, Girl!!

Pickhitt: Update September 2017;

**PickHitt: Aretha Franklin did stay around a while. Indeed much longer than some predicted she would -strength. Alas, she finally left the physical world on August 16, 2018. Maximum Respect.

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