Today, Netflix releases the new documentary The Black Godfather, a sort of hagiography about the decades-long career of the legendary behind-the-scenes music-business fixer Clarence Avant. Avant, sometimes called the godfather of black music, has been helping musicians get deals made since the ’40s. He’s been instrumental in the careers of people like Lalo Schifrin, Bill Withers, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Avant’s daughter Nicole produced the movie, and House Party auteur Reginald Hudlin directed it. In the documentary, luminaries like Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Clive Davis, Jim Brown, Jamie Foxx, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama gather to metaphorically sing his praises. And another luminary shows up to literally sing his praises. That would be Pharrell Williams.
For the Black Godfather soundtrack, Pharrell, a man who just received his own all-star tribute, has contributed the new song “Letter To My Godfather.” For this one, Pharrell reunited with Chad Hugo, his old partner in the game-changing production team the Neptunes. But “Letter To My Godfather” doesn’t sound anything like an old Neptunes track. Instead, it’s a six-minute soft-focus hymn, with Pharrell crooning through copious Auto-Tune over swelling synths and acoustic guitars.
The song is an unambiguous ode to Clarence Avant, who Pharrell repeatedly calls “Our chandelier.” It’s a straight-up love song dedicated to a music-industry figure, which is not the kind of thing we hear all that often. Below, listen to the song and watch the Black Godfather trailer.
The Black Godfather is streaming now on Netflix.