LOS ANGELES — – Arista Records' legendary founder, Clive Davis, who was nearly ousted by his bosses last year, was on top of the world Wednesday as his labels' artists took top honors at the Grammy Awards.
"We would probably have never heard of Carlos Santana, Whitney Houston or Janis Joplin if it wasn't for this man," said Mike Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) in presenting Davis with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
That was just one of the many highlights for Davis, who beamed as Santana and Whitney Houston paid tribute to the music executive as they picked up Grammys.
"Without Clive's conviction, tenacity and belief, this would never have been possible," said Santana, 52, as he took the award for best album of the year for Supernatural.
The Grammys shaped up to be Santana's night, as the Mexican-born guitar virtuoso took home a record eight awards, tying with Michael Jackson for the most Grammys in one year.
"This is so much more significant than just winning album of the year," Davis said during the Grammys. "Carlos is an inspiration to those who are young and don't know how long their careers will last, and to those established artists."
Davis, 66, took home two Grammys himself for work on producing the Santana album and is largely credited with fueling Santana's remarkable comeback. Yet, the past year was also marked by turmoil for Davis.
Having resurrecting his own career once already since he was fired at CBS Records in the early 1970s, Davis has recently found himself embroiled in a high-profile feud with his bosses at Bertelsmann AG.
The boardroom brawl erupted in November amid plans by BMG chief Strauss Zelnick to install Antonio "L.A." Reid as president of Arista and as Davis's eventual successor.
Davis, whose contract expires in June, saw the succession plan as a maneuver to oust him, sparking outrage by many of his well-known artists.
BMG since then has changed its tune and is negotiating with Davis to start a new label to avert a crisis.
Arista contributes about a third of BMG's market share.
"My next step it to stay in music and to keep on doing what I'm doing. How can you top this?" Davis told reporters backstage on Wednesday night.