Remembering Clarence Avant, a Trailblazing Black Entertainment Visionary
Clarence Avant, a trailblazing figure in the realms of entertainment, culture, and politics, has passed away at the age
Clarence Avant, a trailblazing figure in the realms of entertainment, culture, and politics, has passed away at the age of 92 in Los Angeles. The news of his passing was shared by his family on Monday, August 14.
Known as ‘The Black Godfather’ for his revolutionary business acumen, Avant’s influence extended across the spheres of music, entertainment, politics, and sports. His legacy, marked by transformative leadership, has left an indelible mark on the world. The family’s statement highlights his impact, stating, “The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss.”
Born in 1931 in Climax, North Carolina, Avant’s journey took him to New Jersey in his teens, where he ventured into managing nightclubs. In the 1960s, he steered the careers of various musicians such as Freddie Hubbard, Kim Weston, Lalo Schifrin, and Jimmy Smith. Avant played a pivotal role in the sale of Stax Records in 1968 and went on to establish the labels Sussex and Tabu, which signed luminaries like Bill Withers and Sixto Rodriguez.
As Avant’s influence expanded, so did his reputation as an astute talent scout and a significant backstage presence. His involvement in politics and the civil rights movement intersected with his career. Avant later established the nation’s first Black-owned radio station in 1970. In 1973, he served as the executive producer of “Save The Children,” a filmed concert held at Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH in Chicago.
A mentor to Black artists, athletes, and politicians, Avant shaped the careers of legends such as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Babyface, L.A. Reid, and Quincy Jones. Pharrell Williams, in a 2019 interview, underscored Avant’s impact: “All these people that he opened doors for talked about his immense power, his business acumen, and the energy he brought to a room.
Pharrell’s song “Letter To My Godfather,” featured in the Netflix documentary “The Black Godfather,” pays tribute to Avant’s life and achievements.