Upon hearing of the death of Clarence Avant at 92, I flashed back to what I wrote in 2020 after watching Reginald Hudlin’s documentary about him, “The Black Godfather.” Avant earned that nickname because he spent his entire career working behind the scenes as a master connector and deal maker.
He’s one of those guys who knew everyone, could get meetings with anyone, and at some point seems to have represented the entirety of show business.
Among some of his accomplishments: he saved the Don Cornelius dance show “Soul Train,” organized campaign benefits for Andrew Young and Jimmy Carter, made Coca-Cola get into business with Hank Aaron before he hit the home run that broke Babe Ruth’s record, turned Bill Withers into an R&B star, gave Jimmy Jam and LA Reid their starts as music producers, got Jim Brown into movies, and on and on.
There are dozens of interviews with people Avant either helped or influenced and his wife and grown children, as well as lifetime friend Quincy Jones, who knows the man better than anyone. “The Black Godfather” is another one of those documentaries that introduced me to a story I knew nothing about. It is currently streaming on Netflix.