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February 21: David Geffen

February 21, 2015

xgeffenhil.jpg.pagespeed.ic.0AzxtCdBrcOne of the most influential record producers of the past four decades and cofounder of the film studio DreamWorks SKG, David Geffen was born in Borough Park, Brooklyn on this date in 1943, to shopkeeping parents. A dyslexic college dropout (twice), Geffen lied his way into the William Morris Agency and then became personal manager to Laura Nyro and Crosby, Stills and Nash. He launched his own record label, Asylum, in 1970 and became rich from such musical talents as the Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Tom Waits, and Bob Dylan. By 1975 he was vice-president at Warner Brothers film studios, and in 1980 he founded Geffen Records, which soon released John Lennon’s final album, with Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy (Geffen’s label, said Lennon, was the only one that agreed to go to contract without first hearing the record). In 1994, Geffen cofounded Dreamworks. All of this extraordinary success has made him one of the 400 richest Americans, according to Forbes, and he has applied that wealth to art collecting, high-life living, and extensive philanthropy: a $200 million endowment for the School of Medicine at UCLA, early financial support for the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, support of gay liberation efforts (Geffen is openly gay), and more. He is reputed to be ruthless in business and extremely ambitious. “I’m Billy the Kid, the fastest draw,” he says. “It’s not arrogance. It’s the truth.”

“My mother taught me how not to get hustled.” —David Geffen