Clive Davis plans on getting the last word when it comes to the legacy of Whitney Houston.
The 87-year-old music industry titan—credited for making Houston a household name—is developing a new biopic about the late pop music icon.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the former Arista Records chieftain said he was “very disappointed” by two recent documentaries about the singer, who will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in May.
The much-buzzed-about Showtime documentary, Whitney: Can I Be Me?, premiered in 2017 without the cooperation of Houston’s family, and was followed a year later by Whitney, which was authorized by the Houston estate.
Davis, who signed the vocal powerhouse to Arista Records in 1983, complained about the 2017 film’s “sensationalistic” treatment of Houston’s marriage to R&B bad boy Bobby Brown.
Ironically, it was that documentary—helmed by Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal—that finally set the record straight about how the “My Prerogative” crooner was not the person who turned the polished-up pop music princess on to excessive substance abuse, which ultimately led to her demise.
The award nominated project also revealed in detail about how Houston’s career spiraled once her longtime best friend and creative director Robyn Crawford was out of the picture.
Davis also took umbrage to how the Whitney documentary—executive produced by Houston’s manager and sister-in-law Pat Houston—focused on an unsubstantiated allegation that the “I Will Always Love You” chanteuse was molested as a child by her cousin, late soul singer Dee Dee Warwick.
He was initially optimistic about that project and revealed he gave a five-hour interview to director Kevin Macdonald and offered access to his Rolodex and to his archive of Houston material.
Davis believes the shocking sexual abuse allegation (which was denounced by Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston and cousin Dionne Warwick) eclipsed her true “genius” as a musician.
The six-time Grammy Award winner died in 2012 at age 48 and was the subject of a well-received 2015 Lifetime biopic directed by her Waiting to Exhale co-star Angela Bassett. Shot in 20 days, the NAACP Image Award-nominated TV movie starred America’s Next Top Model runner up YaYa DaCosta in the title role, accompanied by music vocals from Houston’s former Arista labelmate and duet partner Deborah Cox.
Now a chief creative officer at Sony Music, Davis says he’s “looking forward to putting together” a new biopic with a “great writer and a great director.”
Davis came out as bisexual in his own 2013 bestselling autobiography, which was adapted into a 2017 documentary that eventually ended up on Netflix.
Though he has been criticized in the past of trying to keep the real life story of Houston under the rug, he told the Times that “has no interest” in “whitewashing” her substance abuse struggles or in denying her romantic relationship with Crawford, who has recently referred to Houston as her “lover” in her New York Times bestselling memoir last year.
Last night, the music guru, known for having “golden ears,” hosted one of the glitziest entertainment parties of the year, his annual pre-Grammy Awards gala.
During the event, where he presented the Industry Icon award to his protégé, Sean “Diddy” Combs, who he referred to as “a young puppy” recalling their first meeting in the 1990s, Davis remembered how Combs had the vision that hip-hop could become mainstream and should be played on pop radio stations when they launched Bad Boy Records in 1993.
“The top 40 should accommodate hip-hop,” he told him, and Davis saw that Combs could connect him with a culture that was unknown to him.
“I was working with my divas, OK? Whitney and Aretha [Franklin] and Dionne [Warwick],” he said. “My contacts would not have drawn me to the street.”