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A Little Night Music

Celebrity Fight Night’s musical director David Foster fine-tunes the charity event in its 20th year.

David Foster serves as Celebrity Fight Night’s musical director for his 15th time this year.

He has 16 Grammys, 47 nominations and a history of producing records for Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Madonna and others, but Canadian David Foster—chairman of Verve, musician, composer and songwriter—still finds time for charitable endeavors, including the star-studded Celebrity Fight Night, which has raised $87 million for charities like the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute. CFN celebrates its 20th anniversary on April 12, and we asked Foster to share a few high notes.

Why is being involved in Celebrity Fight Night so important to you?
We’re there because of Muhammad Ali. … He is the most iconic person on the planet. He is so gifted in so many ways; it’s like the saying goes: His greatest challenge, his greatest fight, was outside the ring. … He fought for human rights; he fought for dignity; he fought for civil rights; he stood for so many things.

Has anything crazy ever happened at the event?
We had a tantrum from an artist, and this artist came to me and said, ‘If I don’t go on in five minutes, I’m leaving.’ This artist was the headliner, and the show hadn’t even started yet. So, somehow, miraculously, I talked this artist into hanging out for another two hours.

What are your hopes for Celebrity Fight Night in the future?
Of course, the dream would be that we don’t have to do this event, that there’s a cure for Parkinson’s disease. But I’m a realist, and I know that that’s not going to happen any time in the very near future, although we’re certainly working hard to try and make that a reality. My hope for the event in the future is that Muhammad Ali stays healthy enough that he can attend for many, many more years. Because he is the draw, he is the magic of the night, and when he walks in the room, the entire room lights up.

On a more personal note, do you have a favorite album you have worked on?
My favorite album ever that I did was with Phoenix’s very own Alice Cooper. … Alice was so incredible, because he would get up in the morning, and he’d have breakfast with his kids and his wife, Sheryl, and he’d drive his kids to school, and then he’d go play a round of golf, and then he’d come to me in the studio and sing his heart out. … Then that night he’d go onstage in front of 15,000 people and cut chickens’ heads off. The dichotomous life that he lived, and still leads, is just amazing. I love this man, he’s a supertalent and it’s always exciting, by coincidence, that I get to see him every time I come to Phoenix for Celebrity Fight Night.