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Clarence Avant, trailblazing record executive known as “The Black Godfather,” dies at 92

Courtesy of the Avant Family

Clarence Avant, the beloved music executive widely known as “The Black Godfather,” has died at the age of 92, his family confirms. 

“It is with a heavy heart that the Avant/Sarandos family announce the passing of Clarence Alexander Avant. Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as ‘The Black Godfather’ in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports,” his children Nicole and Alex Avant and son-in-law Ted Sarandos said in a statement.

“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 statement continues. “The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss. Clarence passed away gently at home in Los Angeles on Sunday, August 13, 2023. He was 92.”

Early on in his career, the North Carolina native managed countless successful acts such as Sarah VaughanLittle Willie JohnFreddie Hubbard and Jimmy Smith. His deal-making abilities gained the attention of legendary label executive Quincy Jones who has said that after the two met, they went on to become “best friends and brothers.”

In the late ’60s, Avant helped to broker the sale of Stax records and in 1969, founded his own label, Sussex Records where he signed “Ain’t No Sunshine” singer Bill Withers. In the ’70s, Avant founded KAGB-FM, one of the first Black-owned radio stations in Los Angeles. 

Avant’s lifework includes his contributions to the careers of notable Black figures like professional boxer Muhammad Ali, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson and baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. “Without Clarence Avant, there is no Hank Aaron,” Aaron would later say in the Netflix documentary, The Black Godfather.

Avant’s contributions to music earned him numerous accolades including the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP in 2007 and the Recording Academy’s Trustees Award in 2008.

His wife, Jacqueline Avant, was tragically killed in a 2021 home invasion at the couple’s Los Angeles residence. She was 81. The couple had been married for 54 years.

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