TODAY   |  January 29, 2013

Tommy Mottola: I have ‘greatest respect’ for Mariah

Former head of Sony Tommy Mottola has worked with some of the biggest names in the music business. He talks with TODAY’s Matt Lauer about his new book, “Hitmaker: The Man and His Music,” discussing his five-year marriage to Mariah Carey and saying Michael Jackson was the “most talented artist” he’s worked with.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are back now, 8:37, with legendary music executive tommy mottola . he was the head of sony music for nearly 15 years and worked with the biggest names in the music industry , michael jackson , celine deion, and mariah carey . now he tells his story in his new book "hitmaker." you start writing about some of these a list stars. if you're honest about a lot of them you're going to get instant reaction.

>> right. i thought if i was going to do this, it would be more interesting to talk about things in terms of a bigger umbrella story of what happened to popular music in the golden age , which happened between elvis and the ipod. and then if i could narrate and tell a story in the middle of that instead of a boring biography, i thought maybe that would be fun.

>> and in the process of telling and narrating that story, you bring up these a listers and personal experiences and here comes the reaction. you write about mariah carey . you were married to her for five years.

>> right.

>> she says of you, you were controlling, restrictive, a sve sven svengali type. how do you plead?

>> all the thing that is it takes to make a superstar, all the pressures that go along with that, and being thrown in the middle of a routine that is almost unbearable to withstand for anyone could absolutely feel that -- those pressures would be overwhelming enough to react like that.

>> no, i did not hypnotize mariah into selling 200 million albums. no, i did not chain her to the recording stud wroe in the mansion we built after we were married. if it seemed like i was controlling, let me apologize again. was i obsessive? yes. but it was also part of the reason for her success.

>> i think anybody that's successful becomes obsessive about what they're trying to succeed at. it's just that simple.

>> have you apologized to her in person or when she reads this, is this going to be the first time she's heard those words?

>> i would think that would be the first time.

>> how do you think she might react to that?

>> look, i have nothing but the greatest respect for her in the world. she's one of the most talented singers and songwriters that has ever come along. i feel great about all the things she's achieved as a result of all the work that we did.

>> you also write something that i think was very revealing. you wrote it was absolutely wrong and inappropriate for me to become involved with mariah. and i'm not saying this because there was a generation gap . i should have listened to the piercing voice of my shrink and maintained my distance.

>> yeah, yeah. you know, you can never control sometimes what happens in your personal life , as we all know. but you do the best you can. and certainly, you know, the good thing that came out of all of this is that she became one of the most successful superstars in the world and for our company it was incredible achievement.

>> michael jackson , you talk about how hugely talented he was, but he was demanding and he surrounded himself with yes people. you were one of the few guys, you say, who even dared come close to saying no to michael jackson .

>> well, you know, michael was demanding, but i think he commanded that respect. i looked at him as the most talented artist that i probably ever worked with. and everyone around him gave him that kind of respect. the problem was, there were too many people who didn't tell him the things that probably would have helped him.

>> you think that those yes people were part of his undoing?

>> there were so many factors, one can never really figure that out, you know. it started from the early age of his childhood and all the success that he had. which, again, becomes an overwhelming process to any individual.

>> do you miss being there on a daily basis as careers are made and then challenged, and made again?

>> the thing that i think about is all the great things that happened and how those are now imprinted forever. and i feel good about that. i feel great about the new things that i'm working on and being free and able to do those things as well.

>> before i let you go, i've got to get your take on this beyonce flap, okay? everybody was screaming that she may have lip synced the national anthem at the president's inaugural last week. what's your take on this?

>> technically in washington whenever you do those events it's never the best of circumstances. beyonce is one of the greatest singers in the world and my feeling is any time she wants to get up and sing, she can sing as well if not better than everyone, and everyone should leave beyonce alone.

>> you think it's much ado about nothing?

>> much ado about nothing.

>> well, your career was not. tommy mottola , great to have you here.

>> thanks, matt.