Clarence Avant, the ‘Black Godfather’ of Amusement, Dies at 92

Barbara Merkley

Clarence Avant, whose unofficial title of the “Black Godfather” spanned the worlds of songs, sports, amusement and politics, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles, according to a assertion from his spouse and children. No trigger of death was provided he was 92.

“It is with a significant coronary heart that the Avant/Sarandos family announce the passing of Clarence Alexander Avant,” the assertion from his kids, Nicole and Alexander and son-in-legislation Ted Sarandos. “Through his revolutionary organization management, Clarence turned affectionately identified as ‘the Black Godfather’ in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports activities. Clarence leaves at the rear of a loving household and a sea of friends and associates that have modified the environment and will continue on to adjust the planet for generations to appear. The pleasure of his legacy eases the sorrow of our decline.”

Avant’s listing of accomplishments is extended, wide, and different. To begin with a nightclub manager, he expended the 1960s managing the likes of Lalo Schifrin and Jimmy Smith. He went on to identified two file labels, by way of which he gave the world Bill Withers, Sixto Rodriguez, and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. He helped broker the sale of the famous Stax Information back in the late ’60s 30 a long time afterwards, he became chairman of the board of Motown Documents, and subsequently the to start with African American board member at PolyGram. He released 1 of the very first completely black-owned radio stations, and didn’t hesitate to just take stands in protection of Black lifestyle as a guide to MGM and ABC in the 1970s. He also served as an advisor, official and if not, to Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama.

But it is for his function as an sector mentor in the audio enterprise that Avant is perhaps most lauded. In addition to Jam and Lewis, figures as assorted as L.A. Reid and Babyface, Sylvia Rhone, Jheryl Busby, and Jimmy Iovine depend him as a crucial mentor. He persuaded NFL star Jim Brown to start an acting occupation. He was an active determine in politics considering the fact that the 1960s, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As Avant’s lifelong very best buddy Quincy Jones once place it, “Everyone in this enterprise has been by Clarence’s desk, if they are wise.”

In a 2016 profession-spanning interview with Assortment, Avant referenced his mentor, former Louis Armstrong and Barbra Streisand manager Joe Glaser, when questioned about the breadth of his ambitions. “It all goes back to a thing Joe Glaser taught me: purpose significant,” he claimed. “You cannot wander up the Empire State creating — you are going to get fatigued, your knees may possibly give out. But you can ride the elevator and stroll down. You constantly intention up below, and wander down afterwards if you have to.”

Avant was born February 25, 1931 in Greensboro, N.C. Overcoming several of the hardships of segregation, he grew to prominence commencing in the 1960s running the professions of Shifrin and Smith, alongside with revolutionary blues artist Minor Willie John, singer Sarah Vaughan and jazz producer Creed Taylor the deal he negotiated with A&M Records for the latter place him on the music industry’s map as a dealmaker. In 1968, Avant orchestrated the sale of the famous soul powerhouse Stax Records (although the offer did not go nicely for the company’s founders and it went bankrupt many yrs afterwards).

In 1967 he married Jacqueline Grey and experienced two kids: daughter Nicole Avant (a former U.S. Ambassador, political advisor, film producer and philanthropist, who is married to Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos) and son Alex Avant, an agent, producer and actor dependent in Los Angeles. The loved ones was struck by tragedy late in 2021 when Jacqueline was shot to death in a burglary attempt at the couple’s Los Angeles residence she was 81.

Following going to Los Angeles in the late ‘60s, Avant formed his individual report business, Sussex Records, and signed legendary soul singer Invoice Withers amid other functions. He procured KAGB-FM, earning it the only Black-owned FM radio station in Los Angeles at the time. He also labored carefully with such legends as Muhammad Ali, for whom he secured a wide variety unique on ABC NFL Hall Of Famer Jim Brown, whom he helped develop into a film star and Main League Baseball house-run record-breaker Hank Aaron, for whom he negotiated the greatest endorsement offer in skilled sports activities record at the time. “Without Clarence Avant, there is no Hank Aaron,” Aaron would later say in the documentary movie, “The Black Godfather.”

Through the ‘80s he founded Tabu Records and launched hits by the SOS Band, Alexander O’Neil and Cherrelle, between others. He also labored intently with then-budding hitmakers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis — aiding to join them with Janet Jackson to create her 1986 breakthrough “Control” album — and encouraged L.A. Reid and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds on the start of LaFace Information. He also was the promoter of Michael Jackson’s 1st-at any time solo tour, the 1988 “Bad” tour.  

In 1993 Avant was named chairman of Motown Documents just after its sale to Polygram (each organizations are now owned by Universal New music Team). He continued to work his Interior Tunes Group and Avant Garde New music publishing firms until finally they ended up bought in 2018 to Universal. 

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame by Lionel Richie in 2021 and was awarded the Field Icon Award at the Grammys. 

“My total occupation has been like this,” Avant explained to Wide variety in 2016. “People ask me, ‘how did you do all this?’ How the f— do I know? I just do things. I just like to take photographs.”

Supplemental reporting by Andrew Barker.

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