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Art & Soul

Clive Davis brings his passion for the arts to Bedford



Clive Davis brings his passion for the arts to Bedford

Photo by Douglas Foulke

IN RECENT YEARS, legendary music man Clive Davis has kept his finger firmly on the undulating pulse of the music industry as chief creative officer for Sony Music Entertainment while also enjoying the success of his best-selling autobiography The Soundtrack of My Life. After the 551-page life story spent three months atop the New York Times’ bestseller list, the long-time Pound Ridge resident received multiple offers from documentary filmmakers to bring his story to the big screen. Sir Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions and director Chris Perkel put together the winning team that then interviewed Davis and dozens of artists and collaborators with whom he worked from the 1960s to the present for the resulting film, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives. A sold-out, star-studded premiere was held at Radio City Music Hall last year as part of the Tribeca Film Festival, and Apple Music quickly snapped up the rights.

Not one to slow down in his ninth decade, the five-time Grammy Award winner who is credited with discovering some of music’s biggest stars—such as Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Carlos Santana, Billy Joel, and Whitney Houston—joined forces with the Bedford Playhouse earlier this year to create the Clive Davis Arts Center. Looking back, Davis notes that as a frequent patron of Playhouse since he put down roots in Pound Ridge in 2001, he was disappointed when it closed in 2015. Over the years, he developed a fondness for the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, as well. “They’ve become symbolic of showing well-made films—not just the latest giant film from Hollywood,” he notes. 

Recently, Davis started thinking about the shuttered 71-year-old movie theater right in his backyard. “It seemed to me, with the very special community that Bedford and Pound Ridge is and knowing how so many of the people living near here would be supportive of encouraging Hollywood, that we could do something. We need great films. We need to encourage adventuresome, bright filmmakers and to provide opportunities for artistic expression and intelligent films for adults.” So, when Playhouse founder John Farr and board chair Sarah Long reached out to Davis to talk about the future of the Playhouse, the “man with the golden ears” was happy to listen and to put some serious financial backing (reportedly seven figures) into the project.

“We had a very good exchange, and we came up with a plan to do this, and I’m very excited,” Davis says of the arts center now named in his honor. “Based on knowing so many of the residents here and their interests in the arts, I certainly would love our community to be right in the forefront of those that are encouraging the arts in all forms without question. I look forward to us taking our place alongside the Jacob Burns to really provide opportunities for community and adult interest in intelligent, well-made films. And then, of course, to encourage music or documentaries or performances—for us to really have an active arts center here, across the board.”

Davis’s association with the Playhouse is directly responsible for the creation of both “The Clive,” a 40-seat theater for intimate screenings (one of three theaters within the Playhouse), as well the Clive Davis Arts Center, which presents all programming within the facility in conjunction with the Playhouse. While the Playhouse has been hosting a series of sold-out film screenings and speaking engagements during its “soft opening” period this past spring and summer, the grand opening this fall will feature “a night with Clive,” says Farr, that will include a musical performance and a question-and-answer session with Davis about his career. “We’re so excited about the association of his brand with ours,” Farr continues. “His name is so powerful in the art world, and he is a music industry legend.”

When weekending in Pound Ridge, Davis hosts parties renowned for great music, food, and fun. His “Pound Ridge Idol” contest in his home theater, inspired by his mentorship experience on TV’s “American Idol,” has been an annual favorite. Meanwhile, he continues to guide young musicians—staying current on trends and looking for rising talent. He hosts his annual pre-Grammys gala. In fact, the 2018 soirée attracted more than 1,000 guests including music icons Joni Mitchell, Alicia Keys, and Jay-Z. Davis also supports the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU, funds the clean up of local sections of I-684, and travels extensively with his family. The man is impressively tireless, and we—as music lovers and as his neighbors—are the lucky beneficiaries. 

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