Feature

Pharrell Williams pays striking homage to Clarence Avant in his original track off the Netflix documentary The Black Godfather

Clarence Avant has had easily one of the biggest cumulative impacts both on the greater music industry, and the African American community.

He emerged as a powerhouse negotiator at a time when deep-seated racism penetrated every corner of America – defying the notions of what a black executive could do, and redefining the industry for entertainers and executives of colour.

Netflix just released their narrative documentary on his exceptional and unlikely rise through the ranks as a music executive who has impacted legacies of so many icons in the music industry.

Simultaneously paying his own tribute to the behind-the-scenes trailblazer, Pharrell Williams just released “A Letter To My Godfather” – featured on the documentary itself.

“Clarence Avant connects us all through his incredible impact since before I was born up until now,” said Williams. “He’s the godfather to so many of us – and not just African Americans, most of the industry.”

The five minute track is an unusual, though expertly produced blend of distinctive, auto-tuned style electronicism meets fine-grained acoustics.

A prevailing “ooh-ooh” melody sets the stripped tone, while Williams’s electro-soul vocalism tries to taper the track off into another direction entirely.

“We have to love him now/while he is still here/for all that he’s done/before the moment disappears,” Williams cues, as wholesome acoustic guitar washes over the track.

It’s as though the extended is being pulled in all directions at once, and yet finds its firm-footed stance right in the middle of it all.

With easy grace, he strikes an expert balance on simultaneously pushing the sonic envelope while paying earnest tribute to a legend of our time.