BEVERLY HILLS—Music executive Clarence Avant, who has been coined by many in the industry as the ‘Black Godfather’ of music died at his Beverly Hills home on Sunday, August 13. Avant was surrounded by children, Nicole and Alexander, at the time of his passing. Nicole’s husband, Netflix co-CEO, Ted Sarandos was also at his side at the time of his death. A cause of death has not yet been disclosed.
“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 world of music, entertainment, politics, and sports.” The joint statement was made by Clarence’s children Alexander and Nicole Avant, and Nicole’s husband, Ted Sarandos.
Clarence was born in North Carolina on February 25, 1931, and was the oldest of 8 siblings. He got his start in the music industry in the 1950s in New Jersey. He was mentored by music producer Joseph G. Glaser. Avant has worked with musicians like Sarah Vaughan, Kim Weston, Johnny Nash, Billy Woods and Tom Smith to name a few. He established Avant Garde Enterprises, Inc. in November 1962 and later worked with Venture Records Inc. in 1962 to help lure deals with Blacks and major record companies.
He founded Sussex Records in 1969, but it later folded in 1975 when the IRS seized and auctioned off the company’s assets. The company was featured in the 2012 Oscar-nominated “Searching for Sugarman” documentary that featured Detroit-born musician Sixto Rodriguez who died on August 8, 2023. Netflix released the film “The Black Godfather” in June 2019 documenting Clarence’s life story in the music industry.
His company purchased the first Black owned FM Radio station in Los Angeles in March, 1973. He served on the Board of Directors for the UCLA International Student Center and produced the 1973 documentary film “Save the Children” for Paramount Pictures. He was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.
Clarence’s wife, Jacqueline was murdered in 2021, after a burglar broke into their home in December 2021, and shot her. He was married to Jacqueline for 54 years. He earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016. He was honored with the President’s Merit Award during Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy ceremony in 2018.
Clive Davis posted on social media the following statement:
“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.”
“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.,” the family statement added.