On Record Store Day, a Look Back at Whitney Houston, Patti Smith’s Horses, and More Early Albums the Producer Clive Davis Championed


At 85-years-old, the legendary record producer Clive Davis is finally getting all the credit he deserves. This year, the documentary Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, opened the Tribeca Film Festival, and some of his earliest discoveries were there that night to sing their praises: Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, and Earth, Wind & Fire. He started his career in 1967 at Columbia records, going on to found his own label, Arista, in 1975 after a falling out with the company. His first ever signee was Janis Joplin, who was just a member of Big Brother & The Holding Company at the time. On Record Store Day, here are some of his greatest hits.

“Whitney Houston” by Whitney Houston, 1985

This self-titled album was the first debut album and the first album by a solo female artist to produce three number-one Billboard chart singles. In 2003, the album was ranked number 254 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”

“Horses” by Patti Smith, 1975

This is Smith’s first studio album, and it would go on to influence the then-emerging American punk rock movement. The cover photograph was taken by Smith’s close friend, Robert Mapplethorpe, at the Greenwich Village penthouse apartment of his partner Sam Wagstaff.

“The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle” by Bruce Springsteen, 1973

This is Springsteen’s second studio album, but the first to receive major commercial success. The back photo of the album features six members of the E Street Band in Long Branch, New Jersey.

“Cheap Thrills’ by Big Brother and the Holding Company, 1968

It was at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival that Davis first heard the band, which was lead by none other than Janis Joplin. He not only knew she was a star, but also that rock ‘n’ roll was coming.

“Piano Man” by Billy Joel, 1973
“Aretha” by Aretha Franklin, 1986

This is Franklin’s 34th studio album, but her first to be released by Arista Records, which Davis founded. It included Aretha’s first #1 Pop single since “Respect” in 1967.

“Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, 1966

This is the duo’s second studio album, but produced their first major hit, “The Sound of Silence.” The cover photo was shot at Franklin Canyon Park in Los Angeles, California.

“This One’s For You” by Barry Manilow, 1976

This is Manilow’s fourth studio album, and it went triple platinum. His first singles as a musical artist were flops, but Davis was the one who saw something in him.

“Last Days and Time” by Earth, Wind & Fire, 1972

The cover art for the group’s third studio album was taken from a painting by Mati Klarwein, who also did the cover of Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew,” another Davis product.

“Songs in A Minor” by Alicia Keys, 2001

Keys was one of Davis’s more recent discoveries, and after a dispute with Columbia, she decided to sign with him at J Records because he really believed in her sound. Rolling Stone magazine named her debut album the second best of 2001.