Looking for the Magic is a cultural-historical remix, a fresh perspective on how Arista Records reflected its place and time, New York in the 1970s and early 1980s. Through interviews with dozens of artists and executives, music journalist Mitchell Cohen goes inside the business of making and marketing music during this vibrant and diverse period. Under Clive Davis, rock, pop, punk, jazz, R&B, disco, cabaret and Broadway were all represented on Arista. The label sounded like the city it was at the geographical center of.
From its inception as a new entity built on the pop and soul foundation of Bell Records, to groundbreaking artists like Gil Scott-Heron and Patti Smith, to revitalized legends like the Kinks and Aretha Franklin, up to its launching of its biggest star, Whitney Houston, Arista Records’ story has never been told like this. Looking for the Magic covers the wide scope of the label’s roster: its giant pop successes (Barry Manilow), its dedication to cutting-edge jazz (Anthony Braxton) and its embrace of rock royalty (Lou Reed, the Grateful Dead).
Mitchell Cohen has written about music and film for Creem, High Fidelity, Film Comment, the Village Voice, Musician and Phonograph Record. He began working at Arista Records in the late ‘70s as a publicity and advertising copywriter and then as one of the label’s A&R executives.
Martin’s interview with Mitchell Cohen was recorded on June 22nd, 2022.