Interview: Gerry Griffith Speaks On Signing Whitney Houston And Why He Quit Working With Clive Davis

Interview: Gerry Griffith Speaks On Signing Whitney Houston And Why He Quit Working With Clive DavisPhoto 1: (Left to right) Clive Davis, Whitney Houston, & Gerry Griffith. Photo 2: (left to right) Whitney Houston, Gerry Griffith, & Whitney's cousin Dionne Warwick.

Whitney is one of the biggest vocalists who’s ever walked the face of the earth…

She is.

Did that hurt you?

No, it upset me. Yeah. That’s why I left the company.

How did you tell Clive?

I told him that I had already negotiated a contract with EMI Manhattan Records. And he obviously was like…shocked.

Really?

Oh yeah, he was shocked. He took his glasses off and looked at me and said, “What’s the problem?” and I said…I mean, I wasn’t ready to tell him what the real problem was, but I think he knew so I didn’t have to say it to him, because everybody else at the company knew—that he was taking credit for everything. So I didn’t have to really say it to him.

So did you guys ever…

 

Clive took his glasses off and looked at me and said, “What’s the problem?” … I wasn’t ready to tell him what the real problem was, but I think he knew so I didn’t have to say it to him, because everybody else at the company knew—that he was taking credit for everything.

 

He actually rehired me four or five years later.

Oh?

Yeah. I came back as the Vice-President of Black Music.

So I’m assuming you guys were still talking, still friends?

Well I wouldn’t call corporate relationships friendships, but yeah we still had respect for each other. I mean this man, he’s the most incredible marketing man, he’s brilliant. He’s absolutely the best marketing person in the business. But I have the utmost respect for Clive. I mean, look at Whitney’s career.

I just want to be clear about the whole Clive thing, there’s no hard feelings between us and you know…we all have our own ways of living our lives and doing things in our lives. He has his way and I have mine. Many times when you work for a person it doesn’t work out, and it didn’t, for the two times I worked with him but I saw him at the Arista reunion not too long ago and we’re cool.

When you first left Arista, did you break the news to Whitney when you got ready to leave?

Yeah, I called her up.

Was she hurt?

I mean, yeah, she was upset. But I mean, I told her that I would be around.

Sometimes artists get attached to label people they work with.

Yeah, well, I gave her a big record for The Bodyguard when I came back to Arista. I found the song, “Run to You.” Carol Ware called me up one day and said, “You got to hear this song.” So I actually went to the studio and heard it.  

I fell in love with it and I went back to Clive and said, “This is a smash.” He said, “Okay,” he liked it too. I gave it to David Foster and Foster turned it into a monster. And later it was also co-nominated for an Academy Award.

How did you find out about Whitney’s death?

 

I felt badly that [Whitney's body was] still upstairs and they were downstairs drinking and [partying]. As a matter of fact I was speaking to a publicist friend out in L.A. and he said the same, he said, “How could he have done that?” ...But with Clive, the show goes on. 

 

I think I saw it online. And then I turned the TV on and then I went directly on Facebook and a lot of people didn’t even know about it. And then my phone started ringing off the hook.

Many people had an opinion about Clive going on with the Pre-Grammy Party. How do you feel about that?

I personally would have not. I felt badly that she’s still upstairs and they were downstairs drinking and [partying]. As a matter of fact I was speaking to a publicist friend out in L.A. earlier today and he said the same, he said, “How could he have done that?” and he actually worked at Arista, so he and I know Clive quite well. But with Clive, the show goes on. That’s just the way he operates.

Were you invited to the party?

Oh no, he stopped inviting me I forget when. It doesn’t bother me, business is business. But you don’t get angry, you just go, “Oh, that’s Clive.” But Whitney was the greatest singer in the world. All you had to do was look at the “Star Spangled Banner” performance, that’s all you have to look at. Not the videos…that live performance [at the 1991 Super Bowl] really spelled out how powerful, how talented, how fearless, Whitney Houston was.

I mean, there will never be another voice like that, ever. I mean, I love Adele, I get almost the same feeling, but that? No. And believe me, I’ve been in the presence of all the greats. I’ve seen them all. I mean, I’ve worked with Patti [Labelle], Sly Stone was always a favorite, Nancy Wilson, Nina Simone, Roberta [Flack]…the list goes on, but I don’t think there’ll ever be another Whitney Houston.

Tags: whitney-houston, clive-davis, interviews
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