Pharrell Williams, Laura Dern and Barack Obama were among the famous faces paying tribute to “visionary” music industry veteran Clarence Avant, following his death.
In was announced on Monday that the manager, entrepreneur, facilitator and adviser, who came to be known as “The Godfather of Black Music”, had died at the age of 92.
Avant, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, died at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday, according to a family statement.
Over the course of seven decades he helped launch or guide the careers of Quincy Jones, Bill Withers and many others.
Clarance Avant was a visionary and a transcendent spirit. He is the ultimate example of what change looks like, what architecting change looks like, and what the success of change looks like. He stared adversity in the face in climates and conditions that weren’t welcoming to…
— Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) August 14, 2023
In a lengthy statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, Williams said there would “never be another, like Avant”.
“Clarence Avant was a visionary and a transcendent spirit. He is the ultimate example of what change looks like, what architecting change looks like, and what the success of change looks like,” he wrote.
“He stared adversity in the face in climates and conditions that weren’t welcoming to people that looked like him.
“He has been behind so many musical greats, people in and across the entertainment industry, and I’m so honored to have known him.
“He was a Godfather, a Godfather to the Black dream and a Godfather to the American dream. There will never be another like him.”
In a statement shared with US media, rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs described Avant as “an irreplaceable force in the music industry”.
“He was a mentor and a personal friend whose influence is unparalleled. His visionary approach and unwavering dedication broke barriers for black artists, propelling them to new heights,” he said.
“As we honor this trailblazer, we are reminded of his enduring legacy that continues to live on, inspiring a generation of artists and shaping the industry.”
Stars of the screen including Viola Davis, Gwyneth Paltrow and Dern also posted online tributes.
Dern wrote: “The Godfather. Clarence. Icon/hero/father/husband/buddy/favorite storyteller.
“What an honor to know and love you and your family, and for you to know mine. We know you’re now in ‘Grandmas Hands.’ And what ‘a number you are,’ sir!”
Davis also thanked Avant for living a “bold life” and praised his “warrior spirit”.
“For the paths you have blazed, the artists that you have influenced, emboldened, created…Thank you for living a BOLD life!” she said.
“You have earned your rest. Jacqueline is waiting with open arms for you!”
Sharing a picture of the pair, Paltrow said: “Clarence. Where to start.
“You were beloved by so many, including our family who looked forward to every dinner, every drop of wisdom, just the warmth of your presence.
“I hope Joe was there to take you to the other side, and Jacqui met you with a big embrace. We will miss you deeply. We love you more than words can say.”
Born in North Carolina in 1931, Avant became a manager in the 1950s, with such clients as singers Sarah Vaughan and Little Willie John and composer Lalo Schifrin, who wrote the theme to Mission: Impossible.
In the 1970s he was an early patron of black-owned radio stations and, in the 1990s, headed Motown after founder Berry Gordy Jr sold the company.
He helped Michael Jackson organise his first solo tour, advised Narada Michael Walden, L.A. Reid and Babyface, and raised money for former US presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama,
A shared statement from the Obamas read: “Clarence Avant was one of our favorite people.
“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.
Michelle and I will always be grateful for Clarence’s friendship and wise counsel. Our thoughts are with his family and everyone whose life was touched by a truly remarkable man. pic.twitter.com/Vf9Cr5ekfs
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 14, 2023
“Clarence was part of a generation that served as a bridge from a time when there was very little opportunity for Black people to a time when doors began to open.
“He demanded the world make room, and he paved the way for the rest of us. Michelle and I will always be grateful for Clarence’s friendship and wise counsel.”
Bill and Hillary Clinton also shared a statement, with the former president writing: “It was impossible to spend time with Clarence Avant and not come away feeling more positive and wanting to follow his example.
“Hillary and I just loved him.”
Current US vice president Kamala Harris also paid tribute to Avant as “a legend”.
It was impossible to spend time with Clarence Avant and not come away feeling more positive and wanting to follow his example. Hillary and I just loved him. Our full statement on his passing: pic.twitter.com/qvNx5ncGtk
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) August 14, 2023
She said in a statement: “He was always focused on who he could bring to the table and who he could lift up. From the music industry to the civil rights movement, he brought people together so we could all move forward.
“He was generous, he was funny, and he was full of heart. He was my friend.”
Avant met Jacqueline Gray, a model at the time, at an Ebony Fashion Fair in the mid-1960s and married her in 1967.
They had two children – music producer-manager Alexander Devore and Nicole Avant, the former US ambassador to the Bahamas and a major fundraiser for Obama.
In 2021, Jacqueline Avant was murdered in their Beverly Hills home.
Besides his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, his honours included two honorary Grammys, an NAACP Image Award and a BET entrepreneur award.
On Monday, flowers were laid on Avant’s star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in Los Angeles.