David Foster, the Godfather of Schmaltz
David Foster, the Jerry Bruckheimer of power ballads, likes to say that he hasn’t seen the inside of an elevator in more than 30 years because he’s afraid of hearing his own music.Posted — Updated
David Foster, the Jerry Bruckheimer of power ballads, likes to say that he hasn’t seen the inside of an elevator in more than 30 years because he’s afraid of hearing his own music.
Millennials know him as the former stepfather to Gigi and Bella Hadid and as a background player on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Before that, he produced Whitney Houston’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You.” He won 16 Grammys and worked with Michael Jackson, Madonna, Neil Diamond, Natalie Cole, Toni Braxton, Barbra Streisand and Lionel Richie, often on songs that topped charts and divided critics.
You can even see him perform some of the ballads he produced, including Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love,” along with Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” and Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” while he’s on tour, at theaters across the country starting Tuesday in Washington. The following interview has been edited and condensed.
A: I can only say that I gravitate toward schmaltz. I’m a commoner, not an elitist. Rolling Stone said I plunged the dagger into Boz Scaggs’ white suit, but I thought we did a good album together.
A: No. I would say it was Earth, Wind and Fire’s “After the Love Is Gone.”
A: Because he did jazz, pop, R&B, country. Because you name the genre and he could do it.
A: Celine is the person every singer should study. How she’s raised her children. How she’s been in her marriage. How she’s been in her shows. How she takes care of her voice. How she treats people. And yes, when she opens her mouth that voice just comes out.
A: For a guy like me who wants to get his licks in, it’s great. She can interpret exactly what I want at all times. She’s so amenable. I think that’s to her credit. When I asked Whitney for something, she would give me something different.
A: I’m not answering that, but it’s none of the obvious people. It’s not Whitney. It’s not Natalie. It’s not Madonna.
A: She was right. I was uncool. Madonna was also a great co-producer.
A: I could say to Barbra, “If you come to this party tonight, and just shake a few hands and take a few pictures, your album will come out at No. 1. These people can help you.” “I don’t care. I don’t want to go.” You say, “But Barbra, for sure. It’ll make your album come out.” “I don’t care. I don’t want to.” But she’s a really true friend and she usually ends up being right.
A: That’s basically true.
A: A few times; that’s all. I was raised to not disappoint my parents. I was in Chuck Berry’s band at 16. There was nothing but sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, and I never took part.
A: Ten years ago, my stepson started carrying a camera around saying, “We’re going to get a TV show going.” I said, “If you can get that TV show on a network, whatever it is you’re trying to do, I will get the same tattoo you have and I will be on your show.” And sure as hell, they sold a reality show about our family to Fox and I wound up with this tattoo.
A: I wanted to be supportive. And I think about it like this: I’m currently working with Michael Bublé. Would he really say, “I was going to call him to do my new album, but then I saw ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ and thought, not that guy. Never again.” I doubt it. But your question seems to be implying something. What do you think?
A: No. There is no upside. Besides maybe more Instagram followers.
A: I did learn one thing over the last five years: Never talk about your personal life.
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