AP Music Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- When Clive Davis announced his latest project -- a Broadway revival of "My Fair Lady" next year -- it seemed to mark a step away from the music mogul's laser-like focus of making hits -- and hitmakers.
But Davis still has his eyes on the charts. With "My Fair Lady," his goal is to bring Broadway back to the days when its songs topped the charts, something that hasn't been the case for the Great White Way in some time.
"Even 'Book of Mormon' does not have memorable songs, classic songs that the era of the '20s, '30s produced. ... so I looked into the rights of 'My Fair Lady,'" Davis said happily in his two-floor penthouse apartment in midtown Manhattan. "I really want to make an event of it."
It's a lofty goal -- but it's one that wouldn't surprise many if reached by Davis, whose iconic career has included making superstars of acts as varied as Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow and Alicia Keys, creating second acts for legends like Aretha Franklin and Santana, and playing an integral role in the careers many others, including Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin and Billy Joel.
Davis discusses some of these achievements in his 551-page autobiography, "The Soundtrack of My Life" (Simon & Schuster), released last week. Written with music journalist Anthony DeCurtis, it includes behind-the-scenes details and revelations that provide new insight into a life well-documented. While his disclosure that he's bisexual has generated the most headlines, the book also shows why Davis holds a rarefied status in the music world -- an executive almost as famous as his performers.
While Davis is revered for his ability to create superstars and identify classic songs, Patti Smith says what makes him special is his dedication to true art -- whether it was commercial or not.
"He had room in his stable for a dark horse," said Smith, who Davis signed in 1975. "I was very raw and we talked about goals and I really felt Clive -- whatever his mainstream reputation -- he does love artists. He does love people that are unique. He has a weakness for the unique performer."
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was signed to Davis' Arista label for 27 years. She said: "Clive is synonymous with the music business at its best."
"I always had a home with Clive. Even now, I know that if I had no label and needed a home, he would offer it to me," Smith added.
Davis, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member himself, plays it cool when he chats about his accomplishments, sitting at a large dinner table on the ground floor of his large, warmly-designed apartment.
His described writing the book -- which he started two years ago "mainly on weekends" -- as "hard work," especially his chapter about Houston. He introduced her to the world as a beautiful young princess of pop with a wunderkind voice; she died in 2012, on the night of his annual pre-Grammy party, after years of substance abuse and self-destructive behavior.
His book includes letters he wrote to Houston, when she was at the top of her career, and when she was on drugs.
"Unless the person sinks to that level that they want help, nobody has that degree of influence to affect the situation. I was hopeful, however, that she did muster the courage to give it all up," said Davis.
Davis said Houston's bad smoking habit is what really hindered her soaring vocals.
"I would never say, 'I would drop you' -- all I would say is ...'I can't record you until your voice is restored,'" he recalled.
Surprisingly, the book tidbit that has gotten the most attention has nothing to do with any of his A-list artists, but him -- namely, his sexuality.
Davis writes that he first slept with a man in the 1970s and dated another man from 1990 to 2004. He's been with his current boyfriend for seven years. The twice-divorced father of four says his decision to come out now should not be seen as a concerted effort to hide his sexuality in the past.
"No. No. I'm not in movies or a performer," he answers confidently.
"Artists . actors, actresses, it's a whole different thing. I can't speak for them. That's a whole different aspect. They're talking about a different situation if they're gay and they're hiding it," he said. "I think that much progress has occurred in society, but they're still only eight or 10 states that passed same-sex laws and the opposition is quite fierce, so I know there's a long road to go."