Clarence Avant, whose connections and impact in the worlds of music, sports, entertainment and politics deemed him as the “Black Godfather,” has died at the age of 92.
As reported by Variety, the music executive peacefully passed away Sunday (Aug. 13) at his home in Los Angeles. A cause of death was not provided at press time.
“It is with a heavy heart that the Avant/Sarandos family announce the passing of Clarence Alexander Avant,” says a statement from his children, Nicole and Alexander, and his son-in-law, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos.
“Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as ‘the Black Godfather’ in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports. Clarence leaves behind a loving family and a sea of friends and associates that have changed the world and will continue to change the world for generations to come. The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss.”
Avant was preceded in death by wife Jacqueline, who died in a home invasion in 2021.
Born in Greensboro, NC on February 25, 1931, Avant grew to prominence in the 1960s, managing the careers of Jimmy Smith, Lalo Schifrin, Sarah Vaughan, and Creed Taylor. In 1968, he orchestrated the sale of the legendary Stax Records, which would further solidify his status as a powerful dealmaker.
After moving to Los Angeles in the late 1960s, Avant formed Sussex Records, which featured legendary soul singer Bill Withers as a signee. He also purchased KAGB-FM (the only Black-owned FM station in LA at the time), and worked closely with sports icons Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown during their ventures in the entertainment field. Avant would also negotiated a major endorsement deal for MLB legend Hank Aaron, the largest in sports history at the time.
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During the 1980s, Avant founded his second record label, Tabu Records. That label brought us memorable hits by The S.O.S. Band, Alexander O’Neil and Cherrelle, among others.
Avant was also responsible for elevating the careers of two powerful duos in music. He worked closely with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, then-rising hitmakers, connecting them with Janet Jackson to produce her landmark 1986 album, “Control.”
He also advised L.A. Reid & Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds to launch their own record label, LaFace Records, and was the promoter of Michael Jackson’s first solo tour, the 1988 Bad Tour.
Avant’s career and influence, which stretches far beyond what this article entails, was honored in the 2019 Netflix documentary, appropriately titled The Black Godfather.
Avant was also honored with an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, an Industry Icon Award at The Grammys, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
When asked about his career by Variety in 2016, Avant said, “My whole career has been like this. People ask me, ‘how did you do all this?’ How the f— do I know? I just do things. I just like to take shots.”
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