From his early days working with Pearl Bailey on Broadway in Hello Dolly, acting along side Sidney Poitier, in Lillies of the Field and Alan Alda in The Apple Tree. Clifton Davis has lived a life not short of talent and full of spirit. The songwriter, actor, husband, and his Grammy Award with Michael Jackson returns to the the screen with a new film. Here he ruminates about the stage and faith.
Nicole Stevenson: When did you began acting?
Clifton Davis: I began acting in 1967 when I appeared in a Broadway show as a Chorus Singer; “Hello Dolly”, Starring Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway. I became an Understudy and began learning how to “act”.
Who inspired you?
I was inspired by Sidney Poitier. When I was a teenager, he starred in several films that I loved; “The Defiant Ones”, “Lillies of the Field”, “Band of Angels”, “A Patch of Blue“, just to name a few. I began to believe that I, too, could achieve success in acting. Then I saw my first Broadway show, “The Apple Tree” starring Alan Alda and I was hooked. I quit my job as a Video Engineer at ABC-TV New York and went into the entertainment industry full-time.
When did you decide you wanted to write songs?
I am a self-taught piano player. I began to “write” music as a senior in High School when I co-wrote the graduating class’ theme song. Some years later I took writing seriously and penned a song for The Supremes; “Here Comes The Sunrise”. Soon after that, I wrote “Never Can Say Goodbye” and sold it to The Jackson 5. I then wrote for Motown from 1971 to 1976. Thanks to the performance of Michael Jackson, I received a Grammy Nomination in 1971 for Best R & B Song of the Year. I still write music and wrote 7 of the songs on my new Christian CD, “Strength For The Journey”.
Tell us about the variety show you had with Harlemite Melba Moore?
“The Melba Moore – Clifton Davis Show” was a summer variety series that replaced “Sonny & Cher” on CBS-TV for 6 weeks in 1972. Melba was phenominal and it was an amazing experience working with her that summer. She and I had a personal relationship that surprised the Executive Producers. As a result, we had a chemistry on camera that could not be manufactured or duplicated. It was magic and I will always treasure the memory of that experience.
Where did you get the idea to write “Never Can Say Goodbye” ?
“Never Can Say Goodbye”came about because I came from a broken home and moved back an forth between my mother and my father’s homes. I loved them both and though I missed each of them terribly, I was always sad to leave one or the other of them. Saying goodbye always made me cry. Then as an adule, I had an ill-fated relationship with a woman who loved me and someone else. Writing the song allowed me the catharsis needed to resolve the relationship effectively.
Did you have a triple bypass?
I did not have a triple bypass. I was born with congenital heart disease and, in 1965, underwent open heart surgery to correct the abnormality. The surgery was a success and I thank God it was.
When did your life began to change?
My life was changed when I accepted Jesus in my life and began to serve the Lord. God has revealed His love to me and for me in so many ways. I have seen miracle after miracle both in my life and in the lives of others. He is my reason to live. My other life-changing experience was meeting and marrying my wife, Monica. It brought love and security unlike any I had known before.
What’s next for Clifton Davis?
I will start filming an independent film, I am looking forward to this work. It is a faith based film that will both entertain and inspire.
By Nicole Stevenson