Clarence Avant, a renowned music executive and film producer known as the Godfather of Black Music, has passed away at 92, leaving behind a legacy of transformative influence in music, entertainment, politics and sports. Avant's family confirmed his death in a statement expressing their heavy hearts. Born in 1931 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Avant began his journey as a nightclub manager before catapulting into the roles of talent manager and record label founder.
Throughout the 1960s, Avant guided the careers of notable musicians like Little Willie John, Lalo Schifrin and Jimmy Smith. He played a crucial role in the music industry, holding positions at Venture Records Inc., Sussex Records, and Tabu Records. Notably, he became chairman of the legendary Motown Records after it was acquired by Polygram in 1993.
Avant's influence extended beyond the music realm. In his later years, he mentored industry giants like L.A. Reid, Jimmy Iovine, Sylvia Rhone and Jheryl Busby. His expertise was sought after by prominent artistes including Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Snoop Dogg and Quincy Jones. Avant's impact was celebrated in the 2019 Netflix documentary THE BLACK GODFATHER, directed by Reginald Hudlin. The film featured interviews with figures such as former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, highlighting Avant's wide-reaching influence.
In a 2016 interview with Variety, Avant reflected on his successful career, expressing his tendency to seize opportunities and embrace risks. His life's work resonated deeply with those who crossed his path, leading him to be affectionately known as The Black Godfather. Avant's contributions to music, film and mentorship have left an indelible mark on numerous industries, and his passing marks the end of an era defined by his revolutionary business leadership.
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