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Clive Davis Talks Pre-Grammy Gala — and Reveals the Evening’s Final Performer

By Jem Aswad,


The Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala — better known as “the Clive Party” — is a fete like no other, a place where you can see Bey and Jay at one table and Barbra Streisand and Nancy Pelosi at the next, where you’re seeing completely unique performances by some of the biggest stars in the world: Highlights we’ve witnessed over the years include seeing Brandi Carlile sing “A Case of You” to Joni Mitchell, Beck perform “The Man Who Sold the World” with the surviving members of Nirvana, and Lionel Richie blow the roof off the Beverly Hilton with a double shot of “All Night Long” and “Dancing on the Ceiling.”

A pre-Grammy tradition taking place the night before the awards since 1976, the party has been on a pandemic-related hiatus for the past three years, being held virtually in 2021 and skipped last year. But it’s back this weekend, and on Thursday afternoon Variety headed down to the Hilton to have another pre-Grammy tradition, an interview with the man himself two days before the party. In the brief conversation below, he reveals the closing act of this weekend’s party and a lot more.

How is the party shaping up this year?

The party is going great — the enthusiasm, the looking forward to it, the sentiment, the RSVP list, the show, all of it. You know, people used to analogize the party to Swifty Lazar’s [legendary pre-Oscar party], but that party was cocktails and dinner and then you’d go and see the Oscars. This is all that and the show! And it’s also a great opportunity, during cocktails and dinner, for people to see those who they would like to see and maybe never met. I remember Tim Cook being excited about meeting Joni Mitchell, and then going over to talk with David Hockney, who has become a friend of mine. I have to create a special smoking area for him when he’s here, he’s a militant smoker.

Do you own any Hockneys?

I do! Where’s my phone? This year, I was inducted into the National Portrait Gallery along with Serena and Venus Williams, Dr. Fauci and others, and they ask you to pick an artist to paint you portrait for the museum. And it was the biggest long shot, but David and I have become friends and I called him personally and said, “Look, if this is any way inappropriate, I apologize. But I’ve got to ask you because you would be my favorite artist to paint me, if you’re able to.” He said “Yes, but I’m in Normandy, in France, I’m not in L.A., and I don’t do portraits from photographs. So you will have to come to Normandy for at least three full days.” And this is what resulted.

(Holds up photo.)

It’s a major thrill. And David has probably come to three or four Grammy parties, when he’s in L.A. I introduced him to Joni Mitchell, I put them at the same table. They have become lifelong friends. I had Brandi Carlile join them the next year, so people meet their special heroes.

This will be Nancy Pelosi’s 23rd Grammy party and her husband Paul is coming.

He is?

Yes, he’ll be there. [Apple chief] Tim Cook is coming. There are a lot of first timers that are very gratified and appears to have heard the legend and want to come.

Brandi ended up leading Joni’s big comeback concert at Newport last summer. Can you think of any other big collaborations like that that came out of this?

After the debut of Alicia [Keys’] album, and she had won Grammys and it went multiplatinum, I approached her thereafter and I said, “What would be your next dream?” And she thought for a few minutes, and she said, “You know, I would love to perform at your party with Aretha. Can you arrange for me to do a performance?” And of course I did. It was very special.

I’d guess this year the guestlist is more stellar than ever?

Somehow, some of the biggest movie stars are coming.

Is there any sort of theme for the musical performances or anything being celebrated or observed or anything like that?

Yes, I don’t want to give away the evening, but there are certain things that are being celebrated. I’m sorry, I can’t be more specific.

I try to get at least one performer out of you every time we have this interview. I saw an executive in the lobby that makes me think Lauren Daigle is performing — is there anyone else you can say?

OK, without trying to be just stony faced or dismissive of the idea, I’m doing it because he’s going to be the final performer of the night. As you know, the show can run for a few hours, so at some point early on, I will say, “If you leave before the end, you leave it at your peril, because you will miss the final performer of the night.” Seeing the impact of the party over the years, the producers of the Michael Jackson Broadway musical have agreed for its incredibly talented star, Myles Frost, to fly out here for the weekend and do the finale.

Doing Michael Jackson songs?


The party is renowned for its duets, apart from Aretha and Alicia, what are some of your favorites?

Oh… Whitney and Natalie Cole. Rod Stewart, Lou Reed and Slash [from Guns N’ Roses]. Barry Manilow and Jennifer Hudson singing “A Weekend in New England.” There’ll be a duet at the party this year. I mentioned it at the Billboard Power of Women event yesterday — where I unexpectedly followed Bad Bunny! (laughter) I said, a great rock star will duet with a great Latin star. I did not identify the name.

Is Bad Bunny going to perform?

We’ll see!

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