The music industry and the world at large have lost a titan. Clarence Alexander Avant, affectionately dubbed “The Black Godfather,” passed away at the age of 92 in his Los Angeles home.
He leaves behind an indelible legacy that will resonate through time.
Born in North Carolina
Born in the small town of Climax, North Carolina, in 1931, Avant’s life was nothing short of extraordinary. From his early days in a one-room school in Greensboro to launching careers from a jazz lounge in Newark, New Jersey, his journey exemplifies the very essence of the American Dream.
Guided by the wisdom of music mogul Joe Glaser, Avant quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the industry. Whether mentoring legends like Sarah Vaughan and Lalo Schifrin, or pioneering unprecedented ventures such as the historic deal between African American artist and a major record label with Venture Records Inc., he shattered glass ceilings with his trailblazing efforts.
Beyond The Music Industry
His prowess extended beyond music. Sussex Records, Avant Garde Broadcasting, and his role as an executive producer for Paramount Pictures’ “Save the Children” showcased his versatility as a businessman and his keen eye for opportunity. Yet, amidst these achievements, his ethics and commitment to artists remained uncompromised, a testament to his genuine passion for the industry.
Recognized time and again for his contributions, Avant’s accolades speak volumes. From the Trustees Award by the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences to his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he was celebrated by peers and proteges alike. And perhaps, one of the most poignant recognitions was his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021. Avant, the linchpin of countless careers, the man whose influence reached the highest echelons of power, from Bill Withers to former President Barack Obama.
His Wife’s Tragic End, in 2021
Behind the scenes, Clarence shared a deep bond with his wife, Jacqueline “Jackie” Alberta Gray, who tragically lost her life in 2021, during a home invasion at the couple’s residence in Beverly Hills, California.
The couple’s shared commitment to philanthropy and community upliftment was evident through their involvement with organizations like Neighbors of Watts. Their love story, interwoven with their shared passion for progress, will remain etched in history.
Today, as the sun sets on an era, we remember Clarence Avant. Not just for his achievements, but for the lives he touched, the artists he uplifted, and the barriers he broke down.
His moniker, “The Black Godfather,” might suggest an air of mystery and power, but those who knew him recognized a man driven by love, passion, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.
Rest in Power, Clarence Avant. Your melodies will continue to play, and your legacy will never fade.
Who were the artists produced and/or managed by Clarence Avant?
Clarence Avant, often referred to as “The Black Godfather,” played a significant role in the careers of various artists, either by producing, managing, or influencing their trajectories. Some of the notable artists and figures associated with Clarence Avant include:
Little Willie John – An R&B singer known for hits like “Fever” and “Need Your Love So Bad.”
Sarah Vaughan – One of the most revered jazz vocalists of all time, with a career spanning several decades.
Kim Weston – Known for her Motown classics.
Luiz Bonfa – A renowned Brazilian guitarist and composer, often associated with the Bossa Nova movement.
Wynton Kelly – An influential jazz pianist known for his collaborations with greats like Miles Davis.
Freddie Hubbard – A top-tier jazz trumpeter who played a pivotal role in the genre’s evolution.
Tom Wilson – A rock and roll pioneer.
Lalo Schifrin – An Argentine pianist-composer known for his jazz and film scores, most famously the “Mission: Impossible” theme.
Jimmy Smith – A leading figure in the jazz world, recognized for his virtuoso work on the Hammond organ.
Bill Withers – Avant signed Withers to Sussex Records, and he would go on to have a series of hits, including “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me.”
These are just a few names from the extensive list of artists and industry figures that Clarence Avant worked with or influenced. His impact on the music industry, especially for Black artists, is immeasurable.