Clarence Avant, “The Black Godfather,” Dead at 92

Clarence Avant, noted as a “kingmaker” and arguably one of the most influential African Americans in entertainment history, died at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday (August 13). He was 92.

      Nicknamed “the godfather” in black entertainment industry circles, Avant was best known for his A consultant to everyone from “Babyface”, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson, Avant was best known for his efforts at fighting for the advancement of black executives in the music business, helping to broker the deal of the sale of Motown Records to Polygram. 

      The Rock & Roll Hall of fame inductee helped launch the careers of Bill Withers, Cherelle, Alexander O’Neal and others.  Snoop Dogg credited Avant with steering him toward “a stance of peace” when he was having trouble with Death Row Records’ Suge Knight in the Netflix documentary about Avant, dubbed “The Black Godfather.” 

      Sean “Diddy” Combs remarked, “Clarence makes sure you don’t get f—” by the entertainment industry.

      In 1993, Avant was named Chairman of Motown Records and, four years later, he became the first African-American to serve on the International Management Board for Polygram. The self-made millionaire was also co-founder of the World African Network and . But the record industry wasn’t his only power base. The North Carolina native served on the board of the United Way, the Los Angeles Urban League, the Brotherhood Crusade and NAACP, and was a major player on the political scene whose close ties to former President Bill Clinton, former Ambassador Andrew Young and Barack Obama.

      “Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as ‘The Black Godfather’ in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports,” read a statement released by his children Alex and Nicole Avant and his son-in-law Ted Sarandos.

      “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 statement continued. “The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss.” 

      “He has been behind so many musical greats, people in and across the entertainment industry, and I’m so honored to have known him. He was a Godfather, a Godfather to the Black dream and a Godfather to the American dream. There will never be another like him. It’s my hope and wish that others will see what he’s done and try to go even further, because that’s what he wanted and that’s why he did what he did. He wanted to inspire. While running an extraordinary race in his lifetime, he passed the baton to us. The question now is how we’re going to honor him and what we will we do with the baton.”—Pharrell Williams

      In December of 2021, Avant’s wife, Jacqueline Avant, was shot during a home invasion at the couple’s Beverly Hills home.

      Observed Tyler Perry, “It is my belief that when two soulmates walk the earth together for many years, be it through marriage or friendship or both, when one of them passes on the soul that’s left on the planet longs for that love, that companionship, that connection,” Perry began. “There is longing to be together again. As I think about the passing of Mr. Clarence Avant, I think about the beauty of him being reunited in heaven with his soulmate Jacqueline, and that makes my heart smile. I challenge anyone to try and find a corner of the music industry that wasn’t touched in the best way by Clarence Avant also know as the Black Godfather. His legacy will live on on the top shelf, because that’s how high he set the bar. And like every great legend, he left us all something to reach up for.”

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