The Ultimate Backstory: David Foster
David Foster is the ultimate backstory of the soundtrack of your life. He is a highly accomplished songwriter and record producer, known for his work in the fields of pop, rock, and adult contemporary music. Some of his most notable songs include “The Power of Love” and “Because You Loved Me” for Celine Dion, “I Will Always Love You” for Whitney Houston, “Home” for Michael Buble, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” for Chicago, and “The Prayer” for Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. He has also written and produced songs for other notable artists such as Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, and Seal. Foster’s work is characterized by its emotional depth and catchy melodies, and he is often credited with helping to shape the sound of contemporary pop music. His songs are considered timeless, and many of them have become popular classics. He has been nominated for 47 Grammy Awards, won 16 of them and is considered one of the most successful record producers of all time. Additionally, he has been involved in the production of over 200 gold and platinum records. He is also known for his collaboration with other songwriters and producers like Babyface and Diane Warren.
While possibly having one of the biggest egos in entertainment, Foster can back it up, with the arguable exception of his work with Chicago, the band, where after the death of Terry Kath, focused on Peter Cetera’s vocals, and caused Robert Lamm and the Chicago horn section to send him packing. The movie is riveting, giving you a glimpse of how the sausage is made in the studio, because of unprecedented access to Foster. There are cameos by a number of artists, from a very young Celine Dion, a 25 year old Michael Buble’ and a 17 year old Josh Groban, Streisand, Dolly Parton and more.
In forthcoming posts on our “Backstory” series, you’ll see his name come up again and again.
In just one example, David Foster had a conflict with Kevin Costner and Clive Davis over the production of the soundtrack for the 1992 film, “The Bodyguard.” Foster was originally brought on as the executive producer of the soundtrack, but reportedly had creative differences with both Costner and Davis over the direction of the album. Costner, who also starred in the film, wanted the soundtrack to feature songs from established artists, while Foster was pushing for more unknown or up-and-coming artists. Additionally, Davis, the head of Arista Records which was releasing the album, had his own ideas for the sound of the album and wanted it to feature more R&B songs.
The song at issue was Dolly Parton’s “I will always love you”, written for her friend and mentor Porter Wagoner after their acrimonious split in the 70s –when Nipper was still young. With Parton’s nod, and her disclosure that the song had three verses instead of two –because until that phone call to Dolly, Foster had only heard Linda Ronstadt’s version.
With this epiphany, Foster tweaked the song around Houston, trying to find a balance for the three people at odds, Costner, Clive Davis, and himself. Costner wanted the song to be a capella, Davis wanted to focus on the role of Whitney Houston and project her as the superstar that she wasn’t (yet). This is why Foster now has writing credit, and if you see how he resolved this difference, his genius is evident. How he and Davis worked as long as they did is baffling.
This creative differences led to Foster stepping down as the executive producer of the soundtrack, and he was eventually replaced by Whitney Houston’s mentor, Clive Davis. The soundtrack went on to become one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time, featuring hit songs such as Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and “I Have Nothing”. Although the conflict with Costner and Davis resulted in Foster leaving the project, the album was an enormous commercial success and it helped to establish Whitney Houston as a global star.
David Foster: Off the Record
David Foster: Off the Record is a 2019 Canadian documentary film, directed by Barry Avrich. The film profiles influential Canadian record producer David Foster, through a mix of archival footage and interviews with Foster, his family, and musicians who have worked with him including Barbra Streisand, Lionel Richie, Michael Bublé, Céline Dion, Quincy Jones, Clive Davis, Josh Groban, Kristin Chenoweth, Peter Cetera, Diane Warren and Carol Bayer Sager. The trailer link is at the top. Watch it, it could be the best four minutes of your week.
You may want to catch the movie on Netflix while you can still share your kid’s account.