The ‘Black Godfather’ of entertainment and benefactor of politicians and athletes, Clarence Avant, passes away

The “Black Godfather” of entertainment and other fields, Clarence Avant, who served as a manager, entrepreneur, facilitator, and adviser and helped begin or direct the careers of Quincy Jones, Bill Withers, and many others, passed away at the age of 92.
Clarence Avant, the wise manager, businessman, facilitator, and consultant who helped Quincy Jones, Bill Withers, and many others establish or lead their careers and who became renowned as the “Black Godfather” of music and other fields, has passed away. He was 92.

According to a family statement made public on Monday, Avant, who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, passed away on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles.

As a name in the credits or a name behind the names, Avant’s accomplishments were both visible and unnoticed. He was raised by a mentor who was a music manager named Joe Glaser and was born in a segregated hospital in North Carolina. Joe Glaser gave him two pieces of advice: never reveal how much you know and ask for as much money as you can “without stuttering.”

Sometimes referred to as “The Godfather of Black Music,” he made his management debut in the 1950s, working with artists including composer Lalo Schifrin, who created the “Mission: Impossible” theme, and singers Sarah Vaughan and Little Willie John. He was an early supporter of Black-owned radio stations in the 1970s and, in the 1990s, he headed Motown after Berry Gordy Jr. founder of the company had sold the company.

The S.O.S Band, Withers, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and a little-known singer-songwriter named Sixto Rodriquez—who passed away last week—were among the artists signed to his labels Tabu and Sussex, respectively. Rodriquez’s Oscar-winning documentary “Searching for Sugarman” made him famous decades later.

Other work was done in a quieter manner. In 1968, Avant, who had been chosen by Stax CEO Al Bell to serve as a link between the entertainment and business worlds, facilitated the sale of Stax Records to Gulf and Western. He helped Michael Jackson plan his first solo tour, collected money for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and gave advice to Babyface, L.A. Reid, Narada Michael Walden, and other younger followers.

If they’re clever, everyone in this profession has visited Clarence’s desk, as Quincy Jones loved to say.

“Clarence leaves behind a devoted family as well as a large network of friends and colleagues who have transformed the world and will do so for a very long time.

The joy of his legacy lessens the pain of our loss, according to the statement made by Avant’s son Alex, daughter Nicole, and her husband, Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix.

Sports were also impacted by Avant. He created a primetime television special for Muhammad Ali and assisted running back Jim Brown in making the move from football to acting. When Babe Ruth’s record for most home runs in a season was about to be broken by baseball legend Henry Aaron in 1974, Avant made sure that Aaron secured the kind of rich commercial deals that are frequently out of reach for Black athletes. He started by making a direct request to the Coca-Cola president.

Aaron would later claim to have become everything he was “because of Clarence Avant” in an interview with The Undefeated.At an Ebony Fashion Fair in the middle of the 1960s, Avant met model Jacqueline Gray, with whom he later got married. They had two kids: Nicole Avant, a former U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas and, in addition to Sarandos, a significant Obama fundraiser, and music producer-manager Alexander Devore. In addition to being inducted into the Rock Hall, he was also given two honorary Grammy Awards, an NAACP Image Award, and a BET Entrepreneur Award.

As he rose in the entertainment industry, Avant became more active politically. He was an early supporter of Tom Bradley, the first Black mayor of Los Angeles, and served as executive producer of “Save the Children,” a 1973 documentary about a concert fundraiser for the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s “Operation PUSH.” Three years earlier, when he learned that the civil rights leader Andrew Young was running for Congress, in Georgia, he gave him a call.

“He said, ‘In Georgia, you’re running for Congress?’” Young later told CNN. “He said, ‘Well, if you’re crazy enough to run, I’m crazy enough to help you.’”

Avant, whom Young had never met, offered to bring in Isaac Hayes and other entertainers for a benefit and arrange for it to be held at the baseball stadium in Atlanta.

Young had forgotten about their conversation when, a month later, signs promoting the show appeared around town.

“We had about 30,000 people in the pouring down rain,” Young said. “And he never sent us a bill.”

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