Terry Lewis: And so he went in, and he said,"You'll be producing some songs." We're like, "Whoa!" Our ten manger/agent, he asked her to leave. And he said, "Now, I got a problem with what you're asking for." We're like, "Oh, no, Mr. Avant. Whatever you need, if we've asked for too much, you know, we can do it for less or whatever." He said, "No. She didn't ask for enough. You can't do a record on that. You need some money for this, some money for that, you need some money for this." You know, and we were like ...
I... At that point in my life, as a black man, I had never met an honorable man who wouid give you more than you asked for...and enough that you needed.
Jimmy Jam: That told you everything you need to know about him, right in that first meeting.
- What he was doing, it had to do with seeing that everybody was treated right. Seeing that things were fair, that things were just.
- Whenever we saw anyone in distress after Clarence helped us, we'd say, "All right, Clarence. you gotta help these guys. you gotta help these people. And Clarence would help. And I'm not just talking about music, I'm talking about civil rights. I'm talking about anything that had to do with the right of people, creativity, just being able to do your own thing, to voice your opinion. Clarence gave you a place to do that...and would protect you while you did it.
Snoop Dogg: When I was......having difficulties with Death Row Records and Suge Knight, there was a lot of call for violence and action. And the message that I received from Clarence was just to be me and to think about those kids that's looking up to me, and the youth that are inspired by me. So one action that I create could be a million actions that'll be followed.
You know, I was young and...considered a gangster, or a thug, or whatever you wanna call it, and I didn't really want to hear it, but I had to reevaluate the conversation and say, "Well, this man is a legend. An icon. If he's taking his time to deliver this message to me, he must see something in me." So it just made me take on a stance of peace, and it'll always be about peace and be about love, and to confront violence with love.
Bill Clinton: He said, "Don't spend a lot of time on this in public. Do your job. Let people see you working. You know, it was so Clarence. You know, it was like...now that's maybe selfish of me to say, but that's my favorite story 'cause, you know, when it's raining outside, if a guy comes up with a little umbrella, you feel pretty good. And Clarence, for me, has always had that umbrella. Not just for me, but for anybody he thought... needed a handout. Anybody he thought....needed somebody to be a wall. The guy's a rock. In every way.
Barack Obama: I had a conversation with him and explained why I thought the moment was right, and I'm not sure that Clarence actually thought I could win, but he was nice and encouraging anyway.
There is that generational issue, and Clarence, like Vernon Jordan and others, they are really the bridge...from a time where there was almost no opportunity to a time where doors began to open. And they led the way in politics, in business, in the arts, in saying, "You know, make room for us." For most of their lives, oftentimes, that door was just open a crack, and success was tenuous. And I would never challenge them...sticking with some of the folks who'd brung 'em to the dance.
I told him the other day, I said, "If you left this planet tomorrow, you fulfilled your purpose. It was very clear what your purpose was. That's... It's obvious." And he never wavered from it. Never. No matter what business he was in. Didn't matter if he was promoting a tour, running a record company, running a radio station. He knew his purpose, head-on, was black people are going to move forward.
He'll take something that was impossible and make it possible, because he'll bring the parties together and make them understand the concept, the overall vision of it.
Then he makes you realize your responsibility to whatever it is, and then your responsibility to give to the next one. Each one, teach one. Everybody's giving. And then the spirit gets bigger and bigger, and the circle gets bigger and bigger. And you keep touching, and moving, and shaking. And Clarence exposed us to that world.
Look at, like, that artistic journey and put anything in between it. Little Willie John is all the way over here, and Michael Jackson's right there in the middle, and then there's Bobby Brown, and then there's Alexander O'Neal, and then go another layer, and then you go from Quincy Jones to L.A. and Babyface, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Teddy Riley, and the list goes on and on and on.It's not even like he's a bridge. He's the way!
You know, we call him the godfather as our parent. You know, we're all children of Clarence. We're all children of Clarence. And it's weird because sometimes you don't even know the other children of Clarence until you see them do something or say something. You're like, "Wait a minute. You don't just say that. That came from this bloodline."
- Because it isn't always about the money.
- Well, he would beg to differ.
- Yeah, I know. He would beg to differ, but I would argue that that's part of his game. 'Cause... I believe what's most important to Clarence Avant has nothing to do with money. And he will argue it all day long, but I disagree completely. It has to do with how much did it help you, help your family, and help your people, help everyone? If he felt like you were going out there and doing for others as he's tried to do for you...then I think he would feel much better about not getting that. But if he feels like he did all this, and you did nothing... with it, and you helped no one, then that was a bad investment.
- That's why we'll always have respect for Clarence Avant, 'cause in the...
in the end, he's got family. He's the first family, and that ain't been about money,
that's about love. Let's get that family together. That's the example.