Clarence Avant, renowned for his prowess as a manager, mentor, and deal-maker and affectionately known as the ‘The Godfather of Black Music’, has died at the age of 92.
Formerly at the helm of Motown, Avant collaborated with a myriad of artists ranging from Bill Withers to Michael Jackson, and additionally founded one of the first Black-owned radio stations in the United States.
The news of his passing emerged on Sunday, with Avant having passed away at his residence in Los Angeles, according to a statement released by his family.
Tragically, his passing comes just over a year and a half after his wife Jacqueline was fatally shot by an intruder at their Beverly Hills home.
In a family statement, they expressed, “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 illustrious accomplishments span a wide spectrum. Commencing his journey as a nightclub manager, his reputation as a shrewd negotiator captured the attention of soul singer Little Willie John, who enlisted Avant as his manager.
His association with John introduced him to industry veteran Joe Glaser, a manager for luminaries like Louis Armstrong and Barbra Streisand.
Under Glaser’s guidance, Avant honed his skills, managing clients such as Mission: Impossible composer Lalo Schifrin and mastering the art of closing deals.
Avant‘s negotiation skills led to a six-figure deal for jazz producer Creed Taylor at A&M Records, defying the constraints of Taylor’s existing contract with another label.
In addition to managing artists like Sarah Vaughan, Freddie Hubbard, and Kim Weston, Avant co-founded the record labels Sussex and Tabu. He employed Sussex to launch Bill Withers’ career.
His keen ear recognized the potential in Withers’ unique style, propelling songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean On Me” to worldwide success.
Avant’s influence extended to discovering and signing Sixto Rodriguez, the singer behind the iconic Sugarman. Despite Rodriguez’s initial records floundering in the 1970s, they later attained cult status before gaining widespread recognition through the Academy Award-winning documentary “Searching For Sugarman” in 2012.
The 1980s witnessed Tabu Records achieve triumphs with acts like the S.O.S. Band, Cherrelle, and Alexander O’Neal, while concurrently nurturing the songwriting partnership of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, responsible for an impressive string of 16 US number one singles.
Avant’s impact wasn’t limited to the music realm. He played a role in shaping American football player Jim Brown’s acting career and offered counsel to several US presidents, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.Email your news TIPS to Editor@kahawatungu.com or WhatsApp +254707482874