A New Documentary Shows Why Clarence Avant Is The Godfather Of Black Music (Video)
Clarence Avant is a man whose pioneering work behind the scenes has helped shape the careers of everyone from Quincy Jones to Barack Obama. Lauded as a trailblazing Black executive, Avant and his rise to fame are the subject of a forthcoming documentary called The Black Godfather, which aims to tell the story of a man who walked away from the Jim Crow south to carve a path towards a more promising future for himself and others.
Described as “the ultimate, uncensored mentor and behind-the-scenes rainmaker in music, film, TV and politics,” Avant left his native North Carolina and eventually made a home on the East Coast in the late 1940s. There, he began forming the mighty negotiation skills which laid the foundation for work in artist management and as a record-label executive, music publisher, radio broadcaster plus more. As a Black man in positions of power during the 1950s and ’60s, Avant was writing a guidebook for future generations. Notably, Avant was a mentor for Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Throughout his storied career, Avant worked with Venture Records, founded Sussex Records and launched Avant Garde Broadcasting.
Avant is considered an integral player in the careers of musicians including Jones and Bill Withers (and many more), but his influence also expands into sports and politics. Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, Obama and Bill Clinton are some of the historic figures Avant has helped guide towards success. The Black Godfather is produced by Clarence’s daughter, Nicole Avant, as well as Byron Phillips, Nelson George and Caitrin Rogers.
The film, which releases on Netflix and select theaters on June 7, features a bevy of interviews from those who serve as a testament to Avant’s impact: Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Puff Daddy, Lionel Richie, Jamie Foxx and more are all contributing voices. The film is directed by Reginald Hudlin, who was nominated for an Academy Award as a producer of Django Unchained.
“Clarence is the bridge from a time when there was no opportunity to a time when doors began to open,” says President Obama.
In 2016, Avant received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.