Tributes poured in on Monday (August 14) for legendary music industry figure Clarence Avant, who passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday, aged 92.
Avant, who came to be known as the ‘Godfather Of Black Music’ for his reach and influence in the entertainment business advised and guided the careers of Bill Withers, Quincy Jones, and many more.
He was a chairman of Motown Records in the 1990s and also founded Sussex Records in 1969 and Tabu Records in the mid-1970s.
“It is with a heavy heart that the Avant/Sarandos family announce the passing of Clarence Alexander Avant,” read a statement from his family including son Alex, daughter Nicole and her husband, Ted Sarandos (Netflix‘s co-CEO).
His family added: “Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as ‘the Black Godfather’ in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports. 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.”
In a statement published to social media by Sony Music Publishing, the company’s Chairman and CEO Jon Platt said: “It is difficult to process the loss of Clarence Avant. Clarence was an ally and mentor to me and many others who followed the trail he blazed.
“It is difficult to process the loss of Clarence Avant. Clarence was an ally and mentor to me and many others who followed the trail he blazed.”
Jon Platt, Sony Music Publishing
Added Platt: “As one of the leading architects of the Black entertainment business, he expanded opportunities for executives of color and supported us along our journey.
“Clarence Avant positively impacted my life the moment he walked into it, filling a void that I did not know existed. Clarence is the closest person to a father that I ever had. He often would say, “Life is about numbers…you’re born with a number, and you leave earth with a number…”. And he was right, but what Clarence also showed me is life is about the number of lives you impact while you are here. I am forever grateful for Clarence’s tough love and encouragement. I am also thankful to Mrs. Avant, Nicole, Alex, and Ted for sharing Clarence with all of us.”
In a statement issued on Monday, Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman & CEO of Universal Music Group, said: “Clarence Avant’s extraordinary musical legacy has been felt for decades and will be felt for decades to come.”
“Clarence Avant’s extraordinary musical legacy has been felt for decades and will be felt for decades to come.”
Sir Lucian Grainge, Universal Music Group
Added Grainge: “He will be remembered as both a brilliant catalyst and protector of culture. His understated yet powerful influence transcended music, spanning the worlds of entertainment, sports and politics.
“I am profoundly grateful for his friendship and mentorship. We have lost an incomparable visionary whose brilliance, humor, irreverence, and love made the world a better place.
“On behalf of everyone at UMG, we offer our deepest condolences to Nicole, Ted and Alex and to their entire family.”
“Clarence Avant isn’t just the ‘Godfather Of Black Music,’ he is our cultural Godfather.”
In a statement published to social media, Roc Nation said: “Clarence Avant isn’t just the ‘Godfather Of Black Music,’ he is our cultural Godfather.
“Throughout his life, he burst through doors and tore down ceilings, changing lives and providing opportunities for generations. A true pioneer, a mentor and a champion, Clarence Avant is and always will be a giant among us.”
“His passing is a great loss of someone who is irreplaceable. Clarance’s extraordinary contribution to music and the barriers he broke throughout his career are unrivaled.”
In an Instagram post, Clive Davis wrote: “Clarence Avant was truly one of a kind. His passing is a great loss of someone who is irreplaceable. Clarance’s extraordinary contribution to music and the barriers he broke throughout his career are unrivaled.
“He was the mentor to all Black executives in the music industry for decades, providing invaluable guidance and support while always standing up for equal rights. Clarence was humane and fair and inspired love and respect from all who knew him. I personally loved him and will miss him forever.”
“He was a legend – a pioneering force in music, devoted champion for Black artists, cultural trailblazer and powerful voice for humanitarian efforts.”
Universal Music Publishing Group Chairman and CEO Jody Gerson said: “There are no words that can fully capture Clarence Avant’s influence. He was a legend – a pioneering force in music, devoted champion for Black artists, cultural trailblazer and powerful voice for humanitarian efforts.
“Clarence’s legacy will live on through the many artists, songwriters, producers, executives and friends he mentored and supported. All of us at UMPG send our deepest condolences to his family and all who knew and loved him.”
“He is the ultimate example of what change looks like, what architecting change looks like, and what the success of change looks like.”
Pharell Williams (in a statement issued to The Hollywood Reporter)
In a statement issued to The Hollywood Reporter, Pharell Williams said: “He is the ultimate example of what change looks like, what architecting change looks like, and what the success of change looks like.
“He stared adversity in the face in climates and conditions that weren’t welcoming to people that looked like him. But through his talent and relentless spirit in the pursuit to be the best of the best, he garnered the support and friendship of people who otherwise wouldn’t look in our direction. He showed them what we can be, what we can do, and how much more we can all achieve if you give us opportunity.”
In a statement posted on social media, Magic Johnson, said: “Rest in peace to the legendary, game-changing “Black Godfather”, and my great friend Clarence Avant.
Added Johnson: “His accomplishments speak for themselves. As a former music manager, he founded two record labels and purchased the first fully black-owned radio station.
“He consulted many major studios in the 1970s and advised Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama. He also served as chairman of the board at Motown Records, promoted Michael Jackson’s BAD tour and is responsible for discovering many of the most incredible music artists we know today.”
Bill Clinton, posting a statement on social media said: “It was impossible to spend time with Clarence Avant and not come away feeling more positive and wanting to follow his example. Hillary and I just loved him.”
“Clarence Avant, known as ‘The Black Godfather,’ was cool, savvy, confident, and fearless — someone who made the seemingly impossible possible.”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said in a statement: “Clarence Avant, known as ‘The Black Godfather,’ was cool, savvy, confident, and fearless — someone who made the seemingly impossible possible.
“Avant served a variety of roles during his illustrious career, including manager, label owner, concert organizer, event producer, political fundraiser, and mentor. He was the quintessential impresario, with an uncanny ability to connect people, open doors, and provide opportunities for countless musicians, actors, and politicians. Hall of Famer Bill Withers perfectly summed up Avant’s impact: ‘He put people together’.”Music Business Worldwide