Clarence Avant, music executive known as 'Godfather of Black Music,' dies at 92

ByAnabel Munoz and staff KABC logo
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Clarence Avant, 'Godfather of Black Music,' dies at 92
Clarence Avant, the music executive known as the "Godfather of Black Music," has died at the age of 92, according to his family.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Clarence Avant, the music executive known as the "Godfather of Black Music," has died at the age of 92, according to his family.

The label owner and music industry mentor died at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday, according to a statement from Nicole Avant, Ted Sarandos and Alex Avant.

"Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as "The Black Godfather" in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports. 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 statement read.

Avant discovered and signed "Ain't No Sunshine" singer Bill Withers, and co-promoted "Bad," Michael Jackson's first solo world tour, in the 1980s.

His death comes about 20 months after his wife, philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, was shot and killed by an intruder in their Beverly Hills home.

Jacqueline Avant, the wife of famed music executive Clarence Avant, was killed overnight in a Beverly Hills home invasion, according to a source close to the family.

Following the announcement of his death, former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton in a statement called Avant "skillful, savvy, warm, and wise."

"It was impossible to spend time with him and not come away feeling more positive and wanting to follow his example. We just loved him. We give thanks for his long, good life and our decades of friendship, and we're grateful that his legacy will endure-in the music he helped bring into the world, and in all those who were touched by his compassion, mentorship, and generosity," the statement read.

Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama also issued a statement:

"Clarence Avant was one of our favorite people," the Obamas wrote. "He exemplified a certain level of cool and street smarts that allowed him to move confidently into worlds that nobody had prepared him for, never doubting he could figure it out."

Avant's life work includes his contributions to the careers of notable Black figures like boxing legend Muhammad Ali, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, and baseball greats Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. "Without Clarence Avant, there is no Hank Aaron," Aaron later declared 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.

ABC News contributed to this report.