Clive Davis

The "man with the golden ears," Clive Davis is the legendary record label head who served as the CEO of BMG until 2008. He's currently the chief creative officer of Sony Music Entertainment.

A Jewish kid from Brooklyn, Davis attended Harvard Law on a scholarship and worked at the firm of Rosenman, Colin before joining CBS Records' legal department in 1960. Seven years later he was running the label and signing acts like Blood, Sweat & Tears, Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith and Billy Joel. But his CBS career came to an abrupt end in 1973, when the company dismissed him amid accusations that he'd misappropriated company money to
renovate his apartment and pay for his son's bar mitzvah. Davis went off and founded his own label, Arista, and continued to mint stars, spending the next 25 years establishing careers for the likes of Whitney Houston, Sarah McLachlan, and Barry Manilow.

In 2000 Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Arista's parent company BMG, decided the label needed fresh blood and pushed Davis out, handing Arista over to LA Reid. As a consolation prize-and after the embarrassing incident resulted in Zelnick's own departure-BMG set Davis up with a label of his own, J Records. Once again, Clive displayed the magic touch: One of the first artists he signed to the label was Alicia Keys. After a jumble of labels being sold/merged etc., Davis landed himself the position of Sony Music's chief creative officer: he'll continue to work with artists, but will no longer have day-to-day management responsibilities at the company.

It's only a modest exaggeration to say that most of the biggest musical acts of the past half-century have Davis to thank for their fame. Just some of the careers he's nurtured include Janis Joplin, Rod Stewart, the Grateful Dead, Annie Lennox, Aretha Franklin, and Notorious B.I.G. Davis also masterminded Santana's surprising return from obscurity in the late '90s: He got behind the guitarist's 1998 album Supernatural, which sold over 25 million copies worldwide and garnered Santana eight Grammys-and one for Davis, as well. [Image via Getty]