Clive Davis has seen and heard it all in his nearly five-decade career in the music business. From helping to usher Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson to the heights of pop stardom in this millennium, to working with such musical icons as Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Santana, Aerosmith and Whitney Houston, the 80-year-old music man has almost as many stories as hit records.
But as he makes the rounds to promote his new autobiography, “The Soundtrack of My Life,” one of the topics that has caught many ears is a few pages near the end of the book where Davis reveals his bisexuality.
Davis stopped by MTV for its Pioneers Speaker series, which features leading cultural voices, such as filmmaker Judd Apatow and LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman. And when MTV News’ Sway caught up with Davis to talk about his new book, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member said one of his inspirations these days is a singer who recently made a similar revelation.
Asked what he thought of Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean coming out as bisexual before last year’s release of his Grammy-winning major label debut, Channel Orange,
Davis said what Ocean did was inspirational.
“Put my story aside, it was very brave of him,” said twice-divorced Davis, who has been with the same male partner for more than seven years. “I’ll tell you what was heartwarming was the reaction of the hip-hop community. I mean, they accepted him as a person. This could have been very controversial.”
While Davis said that polls show that young people today are not as concerned with others’ sexuality, “You take an actor, a romantic actor, or years ago you take a leading man romantic singer that has fan clubs of females all over the world one way or another … it’s terribly detrimental to their career,” he said. “That’s why you do have a number of people scared to death that their careers could be so adversely affected.”
That explains why, he added, we still have not seen a romantic leading man actor come out as gay and still get those kinds of roles. “Nobody should be fooled, but I think that that the signs are good of tolerance, of humanity, of understanding, but one really has to be vigilant here,” he said.
Between the two upcoming Supreme Court cases taking on gay marriage and the continuing resistance to same sex marriage from many on the conservative right, Davis said Ocean’s decision to be honest with his fans is all the more important and notable. “It’s a real issue and someone like Frank Ocean, just beginning [his career] to be candid and to see the hip-hop community embrace it and understand it,” he said. “That was very, very powerfully positive.”