Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen

Clive Davis In Westport: From Janis And Springsteen To Lorde

After  nearly 6 decades in the music business, there’s little that surprises Clive Davis.

Yet when the 6-time Grammy winner, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and discoverer/promoter of megastars ranging from Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin to Whitney Houston and Jennifer Hudson sits down for a public conversation with Rolling Stone‘s Anthony DeCurtis, Davis never knows what he’ll be asked.

Clive Davis - The Soundtrack of My Life hcThe 2 men co-authored The Soundtrack of My Life, a memoir about Davis’ long, astonishing life in the music business. They’ve done the Q-and-A format a few times before, and it’s always fascinating.

Westporters get their chance to see it this Friday, May 2 (7:30 p.m., Bedford Middle School auditorium) — for free. It’s part of the Westport Library’s Malloy Lecture in the Arts series.

Davis has plenty to talk about. An orphan who earned a full scholarship at New York University and went on to Harvard Law School, he rocketed from general counsel at Columbia Records to presidency of the company.

He discovered Joplin at Monterey Pop. He’s worked with Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Arrowsmith, Alicia Keyes, Simon & Garfunkel, Miles Davis, Rod Stewart and Kelly Clarkson. His influence has extended from Columbia Records to Arista, J and now Sony Music.

Recently, I pretended I was DeCurtis. I asked Davis a few questions, like how he’s managed to stay fresh in a career that’s spanned Janis Joplin in the 1960s, and American Idol stars like Hudson today.

“I love the industry, or else I wouldn’t still do this,” he said. “Music is a natural passion for me.” At the same time he’s combing through tapes and videos of old Whitney Houston, he’s excited about signing The Voice’s 18-year-old Avery Wilson.

Davis still mourns the premature death of Houston. He is proud of discovering the crossover artist — who sold over 200 million records worldwide — and helping her develop her natural creativity.

Janis Joplin had a piece of Clive Davis' heart.

Janis Joplin had a piece of Clive Davis’ heart.

Joplin’s career also ended far too soon, Davis said. In just a couple of years, he took her from “Piece of My Heart” to “Me and Bobby McGee.” He regrets never knowing what “that voice and unique talent” could have accomplished had she not died at 27.

Davis was on hand at the beginning of Springsteen’s career, too. The executive “stood back in awe” as the Boss honed his performance skills. Ever the businessman, Davis is now in awe of Springsteen’s “great concert grosses.”

Of course, no music industry mogul — not even a Hall of Fame honoree — is infallible. Davis passed on signing John Cougar Mellencamp, believing him to sound too much like Springsteen.

Davis always called that a big mistake — until Mellencamp told him he was right. “I auditioned for you way too early,” Mellencamp said. “At that time I was very heavily influenced by Bruce. Rest easy.”

Davis is 82 now, but his finger on the pulse of popular music remains strong. He called electronic dance music “not the healthiest trend,” because it has slowed the development of strong voices and held down albums sales.

Clive Davis

Clive Davis

But — pointing to artists like 17-year-old Lorde — he looks forward to the pendulum swinging back.

“I think there are individual artists out there with something to say. We have to make sure the next Dylan or Springsteen will be heard — and with albums, not singles. I think there’s great promise for that.”

Clive Davis will discuss all that — and more — in Westport on Friday. He’ll have interesting answers to Anthony DeCurtis’ provocative questions — whatever they may be.

(Clive Davis’ Malloy Lecture on May 2 is free — but registration is required. Click here for your seat.)

Curtis King: Westport’s Newest Blessing

As the whole world knows, Bruce Springsteen is a Jersey boy.

But did you know that Curtis King — the Boss’ long-time backup singer — now lives in Westport?

King — who has performed and recorded with James Brown, Michael Jackson, Madonna, David Bowie, James Taylor, Snoop Dogg and Luciano Pavarotti (!)  — says, “I have been blessed to be in the company of some amazing people.”

Curtis King

Curtis King

Westport seems blessed to have this talented musician. (In addition to singing — “My voice is as low as the lowest guy, and as high as a girl,” he says — King plays guitar, piano, percussion and French horn, and writes songs.)

His wife lived here in the 1980s. They’ve lived all over the world — most recently in her native Puerto Rico — but moved here recently for the community and schools. (Their daughters are 9 and 6.)

King appreciates Westport’s musical heritage. He and his wife knew former residents Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. The other day, King ran into his old friend Joey Levine, a noted jingle producer.

Their early weeks here were eventful. His wife caught pneumonia, and they still have not found a house. (They’re living at the Westport Inn.)

But he made time last weekend to do something he’s wanted for a long time: record a song he wrote. “No Sign of Religion” — which he’s worked on, off and on, since 9/11 — is an anthem about racism, society and life.

When King met Patrick Talev, a producer whose Norwalk home includes a beautiful recording studio, the key parts fell into place.

Telev suggested the song could use children’s voices. King talked to his friend Dodie Petit, a voice teacher. She found 7 who would be great. King added his daughters and a few friends.

The children's chorus, Dodie Petit, Curtis King and the producers.

The children’s chorus, Dodie Petit, Curtis King and the producers.

The 12 — 11 girls and 1 boy — assembled on a Sunday morning. None had ever been in a recording studio. But the session went well. They sang the choruses. The result, King says, was “beautiful.”

The track will appear on “Changing Face,” King’s album project. He hopes to include Nils Lofgren — Springsteen’s guitarist — on the last track. The projected release datesis early next year.

Meanwhile, King says, “I count my blessings every day.”

Crispin Cioe: Jammin’ With J. Geils

Bruce Springsteen’s current tour has gotten plenty of press. Playing MetLife stadium until 2 a.m. — after a long lightning delay — added one more chapter to The Boss’ legacy.

But Bruce isn’t the only longtime rocker still rockin’ stages. The J. Geils Band recently completed a fantastic East Coast tour.

And there — wailin’ on sax, as part of the 3-piece Uptown Horns section — was Westporter Crispin Cioe.

Crispin Cioe

Crispin’s credentials are impeccable. He’s played and recorded with nearly every big name: from Coldplay, Wyclef Jean, James Brown, Aretha and Joe Cocker to Debbie Harry, Solomon Burke, Lou Reed, the B-52s and Ru Paul — plus Tom Waits, B.B. King, Ray Charles and Joan Jett.

He spent more than a year on the road with the Rolling Stones, during their famed Steel Wheels tour.

Crispin’s J. Geils connection goes back decades. In 1983 — during the band’s “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame” era — he toured and recorded with them.

In an industry famous for break-ups and lawsuits, the J. Geils Band has had more than its share. The latest tour, in fact, was almost derailed by fights over who owned the Geils name. The actual J. Geils was not around this time — but singer Peter Wolf carried the show.

He and his bandmates — along with 2 backups singers and the Uptown Horns — were in “great shape,” Crispin says.

Sets lasted well over 2 hours. They featured early, rootsy, blues-based music,  segueing into later stuff. From “Give it to Me” — which Crispin calls “one of the first reggae/ska tunes done in rock and roll” — to “Love Stinks,” audiences responded avidly.

The J. Geils Band (without J. Geils). Crispin Cioe is 3rd from left.

Venues included state fairs, and smaller, intimate places like the House of Blues in Boston and Westbury Music Fair. Audiences included plenty of baby boomers, but quite a few Gen Xers — even younger, Crispin says.

Older fans remember J. Geils from their youth. Newer fans see the group as a bit “underground.” Crispin calls J. Geils “one of the greatest rock bands of all time.”

Touring can be grueling. “You play a show, get on the bus, drive 6 hours, check into a hotel at 6 a.m., sleep, then get up at 3 p.m. for a sound check,” Crispin says.

But he and the band were buoyed by audiences’ enthusiasm. “There was not one bad show,” Crispin notes. “And when everyone is so invested in it, that makes it all worthwhile.”

J. Geils will tour again this winter, primarily in the Midwest.

Crispin, meanwhile, prepares for his next project. He’s the musical director of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. It will be presented to Ellen DeGeneres October 22, at the Kennedy Center.

Crispin is writing original music for the show. “It’s totally different — and keeps me on my toes,” he says.

The same toes that tap while playing sax with one of America’s most legendary rock ‘n’ roll bands.

The Boss On The Roof

Michael Imperioli is a star in his own right.  But recently, the actor who plays Christopher Moltisanti on “The Sopranos” was very impressed when — waiting outside a studio door — he heard Bruce Springsteen rehearsing inside.

Except it wasn’t Bruce.

Frank Bergonzi (left) and Michael Imperioli.

The voice belonged to Frank Bergonzi.  The Westport resident is front man for Lost in the Flood — a Springsteen tribute band.  In a world of imitations, he’s the real deal.

Frank’s day job is North America director of corporate distribution for BASF.  He commutes daily to New Jersey — the state he and the Boss grew up in — but on weekends his band plays all over the tri-state area.  If you close your eyes — or stand outside the door, as Imperioli did — you’d swear Frank was Bruce.

This Saturday, you won’t have to travel far to hear Springsteen Bergonzi.  Lost in the Flood plays n 8:30 p.m. show on Bobby Q’s roof.  The dancing in the dark promises to be great — but even greater is the cause.  For the past 6 years Lost in the Flood has donated funds from this gig to the Westport Fire Department — which passes it along to the Connecticut Burns Care Foundation.

Frank performed in musicals in high school — a fact that surprises those who know him as a jock.  At UConn he was in a southern rock band.

Shortly after 9/11, Frank and fellow Westporter Steve Goldstein played an acoustic set to benefit the fire department.  They included tunes from Bruce’s post-9/11 album “The Rising.”  Two years later Frank auditioned to be Lost in the Flood’s vocalist.

The glory days continue Saturday night — right here in my hometown.

Lost in the Flood - Bruce Springsteen tribute band

The Boss At Bobby Q’s

Bruce Springsteen is from New Jersey.  So is Frank Bergonzi.

The similarity does not end there.

Frank Bergonzi

Frank Bergonzi

Frank — a long-time Westporter who commutes every day to the Garden State (he’s a BASF executive) — spends his spare time fronting Lost in the Flood, a Bruce tribute band.  They’ve been playing the tri-state region for years, developing a following almost as fanatic as The Boss’s.

Tomorrow they come to my hometown.  They’re playing a 9 p.m. show on Bobby Q’s roof.  The dancing in the dark promises to be great — but even greater is the cause.  For the past 5 years Lost in the Flood has donated funds from this gig to the Westport Fire Department — which passes it along to the Connecticut Burns Care Foundation.  Last year the benefit passed the $10,000 mark.

Like a good Jersey boy, Frank grew up listening to Bruce.  (His 3 good Connecticut kids have done the same.)  Frank also performed in musicals in high school — a fact that surprises those who know him as a jock.  At UConn he was in a southern rock band.

Shortly after 9/11, Frank and fellow Westporter Steve Goldstein played an acoustic set to benefit the fire department.  They included tunes from Bruce’s post-9/11 album “The Rising.”  Two years later Frank auditioned to be Lost in the Flood’s vocalist.  It’s been glory days ever since.

Lost in the Flood - Bruce Springsteen tribute band9/11 still resonates with the entire band.  The bass player’s wife lost her 1st husband in the Twin Towers.  Frank often dedicates “The Rising” to her and her children.  Frank thinks about him throughout the song — “and others like him who lost their lives, just going to work that day.”

See you tomorrow night, on Bobby Q’s roof.  You’ll love the spirit in the night.