An illustration of Clarence Avant (The Black Godfather) by Ryan Melgar

You most definitely heard of famous celebrities, like P. Diddy and Jay Z or Bill Withers and Janet Jackson. You may even think you know their inspirational stories, but there’s one person you most definitely haven’t heard. This man sits behind the curtain and at the deal-making tables, but never shows his face to a crowd. I only personally heard of him after watching his documentary, The Black Godfather. Musical artists, actors, television hosts and hostesses, and even presidents go to this man when they want something done, whether they want a better deal, or more money, he’s the man everyone goes to. Clarence Avant is the celebrities’ celebrity.

View this post on Instagram

Here’s the most famous person you’ve never heard of. ⁣ ⁣ Clarence Avant. ⁣ ⁣ Music executive Clarence Avant was born on February 25, 1931 in the small town of Climax, North Carolina. He went to school through his junior high years in a one-room school house before attending James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina. At the age of sixteen, Avant decided to move to New Jersey to live with his aunt and cousin. He began working as a manager at Teddy P’s Lounge, owned by Teddy Powell, where he met the blues artist Little Willie John. Little Willie John was so impressed by Avant that he asked him to be his road manager, and more clients soon followed. In 1967, Avant helped sign William Stevenson with MGM, engineering the first joint venture between an African American artist and a major record company with the incorporation of Venture Records, Inc into MGM Records in California.⁣ ⁣ Avant was known in the business world as a great deal-maker, and in 1968, Al Bell enlisted his help to sell Stax Records to Gulf & Western. The deal was finalized for $4.3 million. The next year, Avant founded Sussex Records and bought the KAGB-FM radio station in 1973, both ventures closed in 1975. However, Avant had realized his passion for the music business and founded Tabu Productions in 1976. In 1987, Avant helped to promote Michael Jackson’s first solo tour which grossed $125 million. He was named Chairman of the Board of Motown Records in 1993. One year later, Avant worked with a group of other notable African American investors to create a $20 million investment partnership in South Africa called New Age Beverages. New Age partnered with PepsiCo to build a bottling plant in South Africa, which would be completely run by South Africans. ⁣ ⁣ #thesocialblog #equality #theblackgodfather

A post shared by The Social Blog (@thesoclblg) on


The first president to approach Avant was Bill Clinton. Avant was surprised that Clinton had come to him for help, but surely enough he helped Clinton become better allies with the black community. The second president to go to Avant was yours truly, Barack Obama. During 2007-2008, Obama was dwelling over the idea of running for president of the United States. He wasn’t sure how to get started in the process, but he knew that if you ever wanted to do something in the United States, “go to Avant.” And, so he did. Avant guided Obama in all the right directions, sat him down with all the right people, and taught him all the ins and outs. And so, Avant was essential to the Obama becoming president. But the country never knew that, no one did. And that is why Avant’s skills are so unique.


Avant was essential to the success of Motown Records and the many of artists that came from it. Musical artists such as Jay Z, Ludicrous, Bill Withers, Jamie Foxx, Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, etc., were all backed by Avant. Actors, Jackie Chan and Will Smith, etc., were also influenced and carried by Avant. Each artist has a different experience with Avant, but they all owe their careers to him.

Good Will

Of all the people and things Avant did, not one person can remember him ever asking for money. This shows just how kind-hearted Avant was. He didn’t care who you were, he helped anyone and everyone and never asked for a dime. He especially helped the black community because he felt an obligation to the success of the community.

Civil Rights

Alongside Avant’s unique skill to connect people and make deals, he is very passionate about civil rights. In his documentary, many of the celebrities that Avant helped mention that he would also make sure things were equal and fair, no matter what. Avant was key in organizing protests and demonstrations throughout his life.


If you want to watch an in-depth documentary about Clarence Avant’s life and the people whose lives he touched, then I highly suggest watching The Black God Father on Netflix. It interviews Avant and includes testimonies of all the people who he’s helped and all the things he’s done.

Posted by:Cleveland Lewis III

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.