Tuesday, April 16, 2024

RIP Clarence Avant, 92, Legendary Godfather of the Record Business, Man Who Made Things Happen


If you bought 45 rpm singles in the early 1970s, Sussex Records was a label you could not avoid. It was the home of Bill Withers, who took off with “Ain’t No Sunshine,” followed by “Lean On Me,” “Use Me,” and “Lovely Day.” Sussex had many other hits at the same time including the instrumental “Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey, and “Sweet Mary” from Wadsworth Mansion.

They were all the work of Clarence Avant, who died yesterday at age 92. He liked to be known as the Godfather of the Music Business, and in a documentary made by his daughter, Nicole Avant, just a few years ago, we got to learn about all the deals he’d had a quiet hand in brokering in the record business and entertainment in general.

Among the acts Clarence managed, according to Wikipedia, were Little Willie John, jazz singers Sarah Vaughan, Kim Weston, Luiz Bonfa, Wynton Kelly, Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, Pat Thomas, rock and roll pioneer Tom Wilson, whom Avant partnered with in the Wilson Organization, jazz producer Creed Taylor, jazz musician Jimmy Smith and Argentine pianist-composer, Lalo Schifrin. The latter, still alive, is the composer of the the towering movie and TV theme, “Mission Impossible.”

Clarence Avant was a powerful but quiet force in the industry, much respected and honored wherever he went. His wife, Jackie, was also soft spoken, and beautiful. Her violent death in a home invasion in Beverly Hills in 2021, at age 81, was tragic and monstrous.

Clive Davis says of his old friend: “Clarence Avant was truly one of a kind.  His passing is a great loss of someone who is irreplaceable.   Clarence’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.”

Condolences to Nicole, her brother Alex, and the whole family. Clarence Avant was a living legend.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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