Irving Azoff On Clarence Avant’s Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Honors

A Star Is Born:
Tommaso Boddi / WireImage
– A Star Is Born:
Irving Azoff speaking at the ceremony honoring Clarence Avant’s star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame on Oct. 7, 2016, in Hollywood, Calif.
When they made Clarence Avant, they broke the mold. His extraordinary career touched and improved the lives of far too many to count but include some of the leading lights of our times. The late great Bill Withers, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Hank Aaron, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Lalo Schifrin, Don Cornelius, Jesse Jackson and Muhammad Ali are only a few of the thousands whose lives Mr. Avant touched. His reach also includes another music legend: Irving Azoff, who when he was running MCA, had Avant’s wise guidance.  Here, Azoff discusses his longtime friend’s brilliance, legacy, well-deserving Rock Hall honors and why he’s so beloved. 

Pollstar: What are your thoughts on Clarence Avant getting inducted into the R&R HOF?
Irving Azoff: Here’s what you need to know about Clarence. Clarence was a Godfather to the entire Black music business. When Solters and I were at Universal in the mid-80s, he came to me and said, “You shouldn’t have a Black music division; you should have a Black music label.” I said, “You’re right.” And I said it should have a president and a Black head of A&R, and a Black head of promotions. I said, “I tell you what, Clarence, you go put that together.” And he brought me Jheryl Busby, Louil Silas and Ernie Singleton. And we went out and made history launching that label. We had a number of major acts including New Edition, Jody Watley, Bobby Brown, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Bobby Womack and The Jets.  

What made Clarence such a beloved figure and successful businessman? 
The guy was always thinking about what was good for his friends and good for the business and less concerned about his own personal gain. He wasn’t doing this for an alternative motive so he could make a bunch of money. He did this in music and he did it in politics. There’s few guys in my life that have impacted me and Clarence was one of them. You learn to pay back, do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. He really understood that and lived by it and did it. 

There are so many incredible moments in his career where he’s negotiating with major power players and able to bring all the warring factions together. How did he do that?  
Clarence didn’t abuse power. When Clarence was involved as a mediator, he wasn’t representing people as an agent or manager or partner; he was doing it because it was good for them and good for both sides and good for the business. He was viewed as an independent entity and he was smart to set himself up that way. 
 There’s a great scene with you in “The Black Godfather,” the Netflix documentary on Clarence Avant, with some of the most powerful people in the business, including Sir Lucian Grainge, Jerry Moss, Joe Smith and Abe Somer – how did that happen?  
Well, we’re all his friends. He’s a great friend, a great businessman, and he worked with many other great people. All the accolades he’s getting are well-deserving. 

Your last thoughts on him? 
He’s a classy, elegant guy who also has wonderful kids and he has a wonderful legacy. He was the Godfather and still is. 

Jimmy Jam On How Clarence Avant – 2021 Rock Hall Ahmet Ertegun Award Honoree – Lifted So Many Boats