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Clarence Avant, Music Executive, Dead at 92

Written by on August 15, 2023

Clarence Avant, 'Godfather of Black music,' dead at 92 - nj.com

(The Hollywood Reporter) – Clarence Avant, the beloved recording industry insider whose work as an executive, label owner, dealmaker and mentor earned him the nickname the “Godfather of Black Music,” has died. He was 92.

Avant died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles, his family announced in a statement. His death came 20 months after his wife of 54 years, philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, was shot and killed by an intruder in their Beverly Hills home in the early morning hours of Dec. 1, 2021.

Survivors include their daughter, Nicole Avant, a producer, former U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas and the wife of Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos, and their son, Alexander, a producer (Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!) and talent rep.

“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 Avant/Sarandos family said. “The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss.” 

Avant managed Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Smith, Lalo Schifrin and Freddie Hubbard and brokered the sale of Stax Records in the 1960s; discovered and signed “Ain’t No Sunshine” singer Bill Withers in the ’70s; co-promoted “Bad,” Michael Jackson’s first solo world tour, in the ’80s; and served as Motown’s chairman of the board in the ’90s after its sale to PolyGram.

Through the decades, Avant advised countless producers, executives and artists, among them Quincy JonesDavid GeffenJay-Z, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Pharrell WilliamsWhitney Houston, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Lionel RichieJimmy IovineIrving AzoffReginald Hudlin, Sylvia Rhone, Queen Latifah, Jheryl Busby, Jon Platt, Sean Combs, Snoop Dogg and Jamie Foxx.

“He’s a teacher, he’s a master communicator, he’s the perfect marriage between street sense and common sense,” Richie said when Avant received the Ahmet Ertegun Award from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021. “What he did for us, the sons and daughters of the Afro American community, he brought us some understanding of what the music business was all about.”

Said Jones in 2016 at Avant’s Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony: “He’s always told me the damn truth in all aspects of my life. He’s also been the silent architect of so many deals it would make your head spin. He gets things done but doesn’t beat his chest or look for credit.”

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