Well, this is sad news. As an unabashed Springsteen fan, I grew up watching this guy in the E Street Band. An incredibly talented saxophonist, he also brought the fun to Bruce Springsteen’s live performances. Now, Clarence Clemons, the legendary saxophonist in the E Street Band who played alongside Bruce Springsteen for the past 40 years, is gone at the age of 69.
Clemons – known affectionately to fan and friends as the Big Man – was the heart and soul of the E Street Band. His playing on tracks like “Born To Run,” “Thunder Road,” “Jungleland,” “Dancing In The Dark” and countless more represent some of the most famous sax work in the history of rock & roll. “The story I have told throughout my work life I could not have told as well without Clarence,” Springsteen wrote in the introduction to Clemons’ 2009 memoir Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales.
So much has been said and written about the stormy night in Asbury Park in 1971 when Clemons met Springsteen that it’s hard to separate fact from myth. At the time, Springsteen was a struggling musician playing the New Jersey bar circuit and Clemons was a former college football player who spent his nights playing sax in clubs along the shore. “It was raining and thundering like a motherfucker,” Clemons wrote in his memoir. “When I opened the door it blew off the hinges and flew down the street . . . Somebody introduced me to Bruce, everybody knew everybody, and he asked me if I wanted to sit in.”
Clemons soon became part of Springsteen’s backing band (not yet known as the E Street Band), and when Bruce recorded his debut LP Greetings From Asbury Park in the summer of 1972, Clemons was brought in for the sessions. Over the next two decades, Clemons became the most recognizable member of the E Street Band – for his massive size, equally huge personality and his onstage role as Springsteen’s foil.
He’s the only member of the band on the cover of Born To Run with Springsteen. “When you open it up and see Clarence and me together, the album begins to work its magic,” Springsteen wrote in Clemons’ memoir. “Who are these guys? Where did they come from? What is the joke they are sharing? A friendship and a narrative steeped in the complicated history of America begins to work and there is music already in the air.”
“I have seen the future of the whole f*ckin’ thing and it’s Big Man, Clarence Clemons.”
I’ve been browsing through some videos to find ones where Clarence is at his best… Watch and enjoy an absolute genius of a musician and showman at work.
This is why he was so much fun to see in concert:
Check the solo that kicks in at about 4:25
April 1, 2011 – Clarence Clemons Plays The National Anthem at the Florida Marlins opening day game against the NY Mets:
I won’t say “rest in peace” because it’s too hard to imagine Clarence Clemons enjoying being still, staid and “at peace”… so I’ll just say vale, Big Man.