He was the spirit of the E Street Band, and the oaken staff that Bruce Springsteen leaned on.
Clarence Clemons — the Big Man with the big horn — died yesterday of complications from a stroke he suffered last weekend. He was 69.
“Clarence lived a wonderful life,” Bruce Springsteen said in a statement last night. “He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage.”
Clemons was a former football player who met Springsteen in 1971 and joined the New Jersey singer-songwriter’s band after sitting in on a practice session one night in Asbury Park. On stage, Clemons towered over Springsteen and the rest of the band, and his signature sax sound has been an unmistakable feature of the E. Street Band’s work from the beginning.
In addition to his years of musical output, Clemons appeared on TV shows like “Diff’rent Strokes” and in the movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. He recorded a duet with Jackson Browne called “You’re a Friend of Mine” and most recently played on the track “Edge of Glory” from Lady Gaga’s album “Born this Way”. He appears in the video for that song and his final live performance was with Lady Gaga when they performed “Edge of Glory” on the season finale of “American Idol”.
I don’t have any “I knew Bruce when he was just ” stories. Bruce was already a huge superstar when I was old enough to leave the state I grew up in to see him live.
Saw him at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill on the Tunnel of Love tour. The only time I went to North Carolina on purpose, and the only place I could get tickets. Took two whole hours to sell out, where every other stop was sold out in a few minutes.
Bruce and the band played 3 1/2 hours that night. Well past the point in their careers anyone was expecting long performances, they were still playing rock and roll all night. It’s just what they did.
Gonna miss ya, Big Man.