Oprah: Manufactured. Nobody has an imagination until someone like you comes along. Now they'll try to make the next person like you. When did you decide to leave Columbia?
Alicia: Once I saw that these people were completely disrespecting my musical creativity. I was devastated and crushed, like a blooming flower that's trampled on. Nothing hurts more. I'm fortunate that my manager was confident.
Oprah: Twenty-five years ago, you wouldn't have believed you had a right to your musical creativity. I think about all the people who came before—the entire Motown generation—who did what they were told.
Alicia: Some of our incredible legends will die with nothing. They were jerked.
Oprah: Yes. That's what I love about you, little girl: You'll always be a wealthy woman because you own yourself. You've become what those who came before you couldn't be. You're part of that evolution. Is it true that when you first met Clive Davis, he said, "Tell me who you want to be"?
Alicia: Exactly. Leaving Columbia was a hell of a fight. Out of spite, they were threatening to keep everything I'd created even though they hated it. I thought I'd have to start over again just to get out, but I didn't care.
Oprah: Sounds like a Prince thing.
Alicia: Yes. I did leave with the music, and that was nice. The gentleman who'd helped me set up those first showcases knew Clive, and he took my music to him. My first meeting with Clive was great. I'd never had anyone of his stature ask me how I saw myself, and what I wanted to do.
Oprah: How would you describe what you do?
Alicia: If I have anything to do with it, my music will never be describable. I want to keep redefining my work and trying new things. I want my music to be able to fit into any category. I want it to float wherever my heart goes. My music is heart music; giving it any other description is dangerous.
Oprah: It puts you in a box. How do you prepare for a meeting with Clive Davis—the man who worked with Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Bruce Springsteen?
Alicia: I was definitely trying to find my cutest outfit. That's why I was late.
Oprah: Oh, boy.
Alicia: The train was delayed, so I hopped in a cab and got stuck in traffic. I ran down the block and into the lobby. You can imagine my manager's face. He was like, "Do you know what the hell you're doing?" He knew my life was on the line. I was like, "I'm sorry." Fortunately, a meeting Clive was in ran over, so it worked out.
Oprah: How does it feel to be where you are in your life right now?
Alicia: It feels like the beginning of a journey. It feels like a lot of hard work and a lot more to do.
Oprah: Do you have a dream for yourself?
Alicia: I have many dreams, big ones.
Oprah: We watched you take home five Grammys. Was that one of your dreams?
Alicia: Part of the dream was to be...I don't know if successful and accepted are the right words.
We Hear You!