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Clarence Avant dies

By | Published on Tuesday 15 August 2023

Clarence Avant, who was nicknamed The Godfather Of Black Music, has died, aged 92. In his varied career he held many roles, including artist manager, Chair of Motown Records, radio station owner and tour promoter.

In a statement, his family said: “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”.

Avant’s career in the music business began in the 1950s when he became manager of the Teddy P’s Lounge nightclub in New Jersey. That job led him into artist management, first with Little Willie John, and then artists including Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Smith, Lalo Schifrin and Freddie Hubbard.

He also founded two record labels, Venture and Sussex, the latter of which saw Avant sign Bill Withers and Sixtoo Rodriguez. Despite successes, both companies folded within a matter of years. Two decades later, in 1993, he became Chair of Motown Records.

Elsewhere, Avant also founded one of the first African-American owned radio stations in the US, KAGB-FM, and he promoted Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ tour.

Paying tribute, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation company 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”.

Meanwhile, former US president Bill Clinton wrote on Twitter: “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”.