He treats this news with the same directness as he does with other aspects of his life.
Davis also had a long relationship with the Grateful Dead, who would release late-period studio albums with his then-new label Arista. Years earlier, though, he had tried to woo them to Columbia, and describes a memorable meeting with the band to brainstorm ideas in 1972.
Writes Davis, “One of their interesting solutions to getting around the record-label distribution system was to sell their albums directly to consumers through a fleet of ice cream trucks. Without insulting them, I tried to impress upon them just how impractical and inefficient that system would be. That was one notion they eventually abandoned.”
The most bittersweet and heartbreaking chapters regard Davis’ signing of a teenage Whitney Houston to Arista. He goes through his life with the late singer, whom he helped make an international superstar and one of the best selling recording artists of all time.
Davis reprints a number of letters he wrote to Houston over the years, including both generous appraisals of her work and stern, yet loving, expressions of concern over her well-being. One note, written after Houston appeared during a concert at Madison Square Garden in 2001, Davis writes, “She looked skeletal.”
He then wrote her a letter that started, “When I saw you Friday night at the Michael Jackson concert I gasped. When I got home, I cried. My dear, dear Whitney, the time has come.”
He then pleads with her to get help, explaining that he and her family love her, and it’s hurting everyone. “Our anguish, our fear, our pain is just too much to bear. You must get help for yourself and for your close extended family.”