“I believe that everyone gets three rounds in their life,” says musician, songwriter, composer, arranger, producer, and recording artist David Foster. “For me, two are completed and I’m on to Round Three. I think you have to change it up every round. My mantra is retreat and attack in another direction, which I’ve done twice. Now I’m going to do it again.”
Foster’s first round was as a studio musician, arranger, and recording artist. His second round was becoming one of the most successful songwriters and record producers in history — shepherding albums that have collectively sold in the hundreds of millions. This period of his four-decade career also found him creating The David Foster Foundation and volunteering his time and talent to over 400 charities, as well as becoming a household name as a performer throughout Asia where he tours annually.
For his third round, Foster is gearing up to take on Broadway with several projects. These include writing the music for a new musical about the iconic, animated character Betty Boop, which will be directed by Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell. He is writing the music for a stage adaptation of the film Doc Hollywood, directed by Emmy Award-winner Josh Bergasse, as well as for a musical based on the Amy Bloom novel and New York Times bestseller Lucky Us, directed by Tony Award-nominee Sheryl Kaller. Foster is also developing a scripted narrative one-man show based on the story of his career that he will perform himself. And finally, he is gearing up to write an original show with Oscar-nominated actor Chazz Palminteri that Foster describes as “a cross between The Bodyguard and The Phantom of the Opera.”
As one of the most illustrious composers of our time, Foster’s skill set of creating hits, writing indelible melodies, and building dramatic moments, has primed him for this third round. “I think Broadway and I are a perfect fit,” he says. “The story becomes the co-writer. It’s a new adventure and creative outlet for me that I’ve always believed I could do and now it’s become a reality. It’s also exciting because, as a producer, I’ve spent 35 years in a room with no windows, churning out music. Now I plan to immerse myself in New York theater culture and learn the ropes slowly, and I’m not afraid of that.”
Foster seems constitutionally incapable of resting on his laurels, and his relentless drive has propelled him throughout his career. Few other individuals can claim to have their fingerprints on more major moments in all of popular music than David Foster. He has created hit songs and award-winning gold and platinum albums for a diverse array of artists including Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Andrea Bocelli, Michael Bublé, Josh Groban, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Michael Bolton, Seal, Chaka Khan, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Chicago, Hall & Oates, Brandy, ’N Sync, Boz Scaggs, and Gloria Estefan. He has escorted singers who have straddled both pop and classical styles like Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban into the mainstream. He has created culture-defining soundtracks for blockbuster films like The Bodyguard, Urban Cowboy, and St. Elmo’s Fire; and crafted timeless holiday classics, including perennial best-sellers like Josh Groban’s Noel, Michael Bublé’s Christmas, Celine Dion’s These Are Special Times, Rod Stewart’s Merry Christmas Baby, Andrea Bocelli’s My Christmas, and Mary J. Blige’s A Mary Christmas.
For his remarkable work, Foster has won 16 Grammy Awards, including three for Producer of the Year, an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe, and racked up three Oscar nominations for “Best Original Song.” He has also earned a reputation as a keen spotter of new talent, playing a key role in the discovery and career launches of Celine Dion, Josh Groban, and Michael Bublé.
In 2008 and 2011, Foster stepped out as performer in his own right as the host of “Foster & Friends” — two star-studded concert events in Las Vegas that celebrate the music from Foster’s unparalleled catalog. The shows were filmed for Great Performance on PBS and Foster’s Hit Man and The Hit Man Returns became PBS’ highest-rated pledge drive shows of the decade. Foster is also a household name as a performer throughout Asia where he fills arenas on his frequent tours. In 2015, Foster became a celebrity judge on the smash hit TV show Asia’s Got Talent. Billed as the biggest TV show in the world, it is broadcast throughout Asia into 20 countries. Foster also recently became the new Global Grand Brand Ambassador for AirAsia.
“In Asia, audiences believe that the person who writes and produces the songs is as important as the person who sings them,” Foster says. “So when you play a song that you’ve written and the entire 10,000-seat arena sings every word, that’s pretty thrilling.” Foster plans to expand his touring into Europe, the U.S., and Russia in the coming year.
It’s not surprising that Foster became a consummate performer. Born in Victoria, British Columbia, he began studying piano at age four. As the story goes, his mother was dusting the family piano, hit one of the keys, and was shocked when David correctly called out, “That’s an E!”, thus discovering he had perfect pitch. The son of a maintenance yard superintendent and a homemaker, Foster has chronicled his life in the highly regarded, best-selling autobiography Hit Man.
Foster has made charitable work his life’s other priority. Meeting with a young girl from his hometown who was awaiting a liver transplant had a profound impact and led him to create The David Foster Foundation in 1985. Its mission is to provide financial support to Canadian families with children in need of live-saving organ transplants, along with a new focus on organ donor awareness. Four years ago, the Foundation had a mandate raise a $30 million endowment. “We’ve moved that goalpost to $50 million and I think we’ll get there by the end of 2017,” Foster says. He has also volunteered his time and talent to over 400 charities over the past two decades, including the annual Muhammad Ali Celebrity Fight Night, The Andre Agassi Foundation, and Carousel of Hope. Tapping into his vast network of friends and superstar artists, Foster has enabled these events to raise millions of dollars for worthy causes. “The gift of music has brought me many rewards,” he says. “What better way to honor those gifts than to pay it forward. It’s not just a responsibility, it’s a must.”
Foster has also been rewarded with professional honors, including being inducted into the Canadian Walk of Fame in 2002, The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2007, The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010, and the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in the U.S., also in 2010. In 2013, Foster received his star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is located on Vine Street in front of the iconic Capitol Records building, adjacent to the stars of his musical heroes — John, Paul, George and Ringo — a thrill for the self-described “biggest Beatles fan on the planet.” The location is doubly meaningful as Capitol was the label that signed Foster’s band Skylark in 1971. Their hit “Wildflower” became a Top 10 hit and launched Foster on his unending road to success.
Reflecting upon receiving a star on the Walk of Fame, Foster says, “One hundred years from now, my great-grandchildren will go, ‘Hey, there’s my great-grandpa,’ and having a star next to The Beatles … outside the building where I first got signed … that’s perfect.”