Though not always the most popular figure in rock music -- just ask Jerry Wexler, who called him a greedy agent, or writer Fred Goodman, who went to great lengths to pan him in a book about the music industry -- David Geffen has nevertheless been one of the most important figures in the corporate rock world of the last 30 years. He is responsible for guiding the careers of such big-name acts as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Laura Nyro, Jackson Browne and the Eagles, believing in the artists when few others did. Geffen is also believed by some, however, to be the definitive figure in shaping the greed and excess of the music industry during the '70s, the shark who changed the priority from music to money. Indeed, the overinflated claim alone is indicative of the power and influence David Geffen has had on the music business.
As a boy growing up in Brooklyn, Geffen dreamed of becoming a Hollywood mogul. He avidly read the Hollywood gossip columns and spent his spare time at the local movie theaters. As a teenager, Geffen found his idol while reading a book about revered studio head Louis B. Mayer. But although the boy had his sights set on success, he was never a very good student, nor could he maintain a job. Barely passing high school, he failed out of the University of Texas and Brooklyn College before returning home and getting fired from two low-level jobs at CBS for being too aggressive. After a period of anxiety over his future, Geffen landed a job at the William Morris Talent Agency by padding his resumé with a false degree from UCLA and a nonexistent internship on The Danny Kaye Show.