The "Godfather of Black Music" and shrewd manager, businessman, facilitator, and advisor Clarence Avant has passed away. Quincy Jones, Bill Withers, and many other artists credit Clarence Avant with helping to establish or shape their careers. He was 92. A family announcement made public on Monday morning stated that Avant, who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, passed away on Sunday at his Los Angeles home. According to the AP, Avant's accomplishments were both visible and unnoticed, either as a name in the credits or a name behind the scenes. He was raised by a mentor who was a music manager named Joe Glaser and was born in a segregated hospital in North Carolina. Joe Glaser gave him two pieces of advice: never reveal how much you know and ask for as much money as you can "without stuttering."
He made his management debut in the 1950s, working with artists such composer Lalo Schifrin, who created the Mission: Impossible theme, and singers Sarah Vaughan and Little Willie John. He was an early supporter of Black-owned radio stations in the 1970s, and after Berry Gordy Jr. sold the business in the 1990s, he became the head of Motown. Along with Withers, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, the SOS Band, and other notable artists, he also founded labels like Sussex (a cross between two Avant-garde passions: success and sex) and Tabu. Sixto Rodriquez, a little-known singer-songwriter, later rose to fame thanks to the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugarman. Last week, Rodriguez passed away.
Other work was done in a quieter manner. In 1968, Avant, who had been chosen by Stax CEO Al Bell to serve as a link between the entertainment and business worlds, facilitated the sale of Stax Records to Gulf and Western. He assisted Michael Jackson in planning his first solo tour, helped raise money for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and offered advice to Babyface, LA Reid, Narada Michael Walden, and other younger enthusiasts. If they're clever, everyone in this profession has visited Clarence's desk, as Quincy Jones loved to say. Sports were also impacted by Avant. He produced a primetime television special for Muhammad Ali and assisted running back Jim Brown in making the move from football to acting.