Legendary Record Executive and “Godfather of Black Music” Clarence Avant Dead at 92

Clarence Avant, the legendary record executive, dubbed the “Godfather of Black Music” died on Sunday (August 13) at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92.

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“Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as ‘the Black Godfather’ in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports,” read a shared statement by his daughter Nicole, her husband Ted Sarandos, and their son Alexander. “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 joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss.”

Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, also added that Avant “passed away gently” at his home in Los Angeles. The news of Avant’s death comes nearly two years after the tragic shooting death of his wife, Jacqueline Avant, in 2021.

Born February 25, 1931, in Climax, North Carolina, Avant started working in music in the 1950s and managed a number of artists throughout the 1960s, including R&B singer Little Willie John, jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, rocker Tom Wilson, as well as composer Lalo Schifrin and jazz musician Jimmy Smith, among others.

[RELATED: Jacqueline Avant Shot and Killed in Home Invasion]

By the late ’60s, Avant went on to work at Venture Records before founding Sussex Records. His label gave birth to artists like Bill Withers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, among others. During this time, he also helped broker the sale of Stax Records.

In 1971, Avant started up Avant Garde Broadcasting and purchased the first African-American-owned FM Radio station in Los Angeles. Several years prior, Avant married Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Alberta Gray in 1967. The couple had two children, a daughter Nicole Avant, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas, and a son Alexander Du Bois Avant.

Avant became chairman of the board of Motown Records in the 1990s and the first African-American board member at PolyGram. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.

His life was recently documented in the 2019 Netflix feature, The Black Godfather, directed by Reginald Hudlin. The film picked up an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, composed by The Neptunes songwriting duo of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo.

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame )

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