Clarence Avant, Rock Hall of Fame Inductee, Dead at 92
Clarence Avant, the legendary music executive nicknamed the "Godfather of Black Music," died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92.
The news was confirmed in a statement released by Avant's family. "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," they said. "The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss."
Avant, born in North Carolina in 1931, got his start in the music business in the '50s, managing Little Willie John, Sarah Vaughan, Kim Weston, Tom Wilson and many others. From 1967-69, he worked for Venture Records, followed by the launch of his Los Angeles-based label, Sussex Records, where he signed acts like Bill Withers, guitarist Dennis Coffey and the rock band Gallery.
Avant also founded Avant Garde Broadcasting in 1971 and bought the first African-American-owned FM radio station in metropolitan L.A. In the '80s, he co-promoted Michael Jackson’s first solo world tour; he was Motown's chairman of the board in the '90s. In 2021, he was given the Ahmet Ertegun Award by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Throughout his career, he advised several artists, producers and industry executives, including Quincy Jones, David Geffen, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, Jimmy Iovine and Snoop Dogg.
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"He's a teacher, he's a master communicator, he's the perfect marriage between street sense and common sense," Lionel Richie said at the 2021 Rock Hall ceremony where he inducted Avant. In 2019, a film about Avant called The Black Godfather was released and included testimonials from artists as well as high-profile figures like former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
"I want people to be inspired to help others and share the blessing," Nicole Avant, Avant's daughter and producer of the film told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. "Sometimes real power is behind the scenes, helping people achieve their dreams."
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