02/21/2013 at 10:00 AM EST
On a late January afternoon, Clive Davis is sitting in his wood-paneled office in Sony Music's Manhattan headquarters. Soon he'll be off to catch the opening night of his pal Barry Manilow's new Broadway show.
But right now he's gazing at his wall, which holds photos of him with just about every superstar musician through the years: Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin.
Growing up in Brooklyn in the '30s and '40s, the legendary music mogul, now 80, was never obsessed with music – "My charts were baseball charts!" – and today sometimes even he can't believe his enormous success. "Luck played a part," he says.
Luck and a phenomenal gift for recognizing, nurturing and selling talent. In his new memoir
, The Soundtrack of My Life
, the five-time Grammy-winning Hall of Famer reflects on his nearly five decades as a record producer and executive, discovering and guiding performers like Houston and Alicia Keys
, overseeing the careers of, at one time, Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan and helping Santana make a huge comeback in 1999.
"The breadth of styles he can bring to the top – no one can touch that," says Bill Werde, Billboard
's editorial director. "Clive deeply feels the music."
His memoir also pulls back the curtain on his personal life. Though married twice and father to four grown children, he reveals that he is bisexual
and that his current relationship is with a man.
Though he says he never hid his sexual orientation from those closest to him, he's telling the rest of the world in his book because "this is the story of my life," he says. "I knew I was going to include that important part of it."