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Clarence Avant, ‘Godfather of Black Music’, dead at 92

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Clarence Avant, who was dubbed the “Godfather of Black” music and entertainment, has died aged 92, his family has confirmed.

A statement provided by his family including son-in-law Ted Sarandos, the Netflix Co-CEO, announced Avant’s passing “with a heavy heart,” and said he had “passed away gently” at his LA home yesterday.

“Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as ‘the Black Godfather’ in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports,” the statement said. “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.”

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Avant was a pioneering music executive who was also a film producer and entrepreneur. A 2019 Netflix feature, The Black Godfather, depicted his story and was directed by Reginald Hudlin. It was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, which were penned by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo.

Born the oldest of eight children in North Carolina in 1931, Avant began working in the music business in the 1950s, managing a number of successful singers including Little Willie John. He went on to work for Venture Records and, two years later, founded Sussex Records.

Avant moved on to forge Avant Garde Broadcasting in 1071 and he was subsequently bought the first African-American owned FM Radio station in metropolitan LA in the 1970s.

Throughout a decorated career, he won a string of awards, receiving a Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2016 and then a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gong in 2021, during which Barack Obama and Kamala Harris spoke in a video tribute.

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Avant married Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Alberta Gray in 1967 and they had two children, the eldest of whom, Nicole Avant, is a former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas and is the wife of Netflix boss Sarandos.

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