Sunday, June 19, 2011

Clarence Clemons

Anyone who has ever been to a Bruce Springsteen concert knows of Clarence Clemons. You can keep all the gee-tar men, give me the Big Man with the wailing sax. His saxophone solos electrified every song he ever played on. And Bruce’s generosity in really showcasing his talented E. Street Band allowed us to get to know them all. And for me – the real shining member was Clemons.

He always played with such soul and joy. And again, if you’ve ever been to a Springsteen concert, that usually meant soul and joy for four hours. How he didn’t blow his liver out through that horn every night I still don’t know.

Clarence passed away yesterday at age 69. Way too young. And how many of those years were spent on buses and planes and station wagons getting from gig to gig to gig? Like I said, waaay too young. He deserved an extra year for each 10,000 interstate miles.

Or at least one more encore. Blow Big Man, blow!



Thank you, Clarence. You will be forever missed.

17 comments:

Baylink said...

Let me donate the best clip I found last night:

Clarence and the band in London, 2 years ago, courtesy of Hard Rock, in what is, I think, the definitive live recording of Jungleland:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PTJHhUeAfc

denurd said...

Sad day for E Street Nation.

Pat Reeder said...

Here's a good collection of Clarence Clemons clips, all on one page:

http://tinyurl.com/5sc8lso

Mary Stella said...

I'm heartbroken about Clarence's death. In addition to being a fan for over 35 years, I spent a bunch of years hanging around the Asbury Park music scene. Clarence was larger than life in spirit as well as body. His smile and laugh were generous gifts that uplifted everybody in his vicinity. Clarence had a house in our town in the Florida Keys. In addition to lending his name to a tournament that raised money for ill children, he regularly jammed with local artists and supported other causes. On New Year's Day, I was invited to a brunch in the community where he lived. Clarence had RSVPd that he and his family were coming, too. They hung out, ate, and chatted like every other neighbor. He was unfailingly gracious to everyone. At one point, he brought out his saxophone and played us a beautiful song. His young daughter danced alongside his chair. Probably the only pint-sized performer who could upstage the Big Man. His pride shone out of his smile.
R.I.P. Big Man.

Dave Creek said...

In 1980, on "The River" tour, I saw Springsteen at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. During the song "Fire," which has the pause right before the phrase, "Romeo and Juliet...." the lights went out -- and then on opposite sides of the stage, under a single spotlight apiece, stood Springsteen and Clemons. They slooooowly took exaggerated steps toward one another (this while the audience is going crazier with each step!) until they met in the middle.
All this led to a pause that had to have lasted three or four minutes until they sang the next line. An even bigger crowd reaction, which I wouldn't have thought possible.

An amazing piece of stagecraft on both their part and a recognition of how Springsteen fans love "The Big Man" nearly as much as the Boss himself.

sharkman08 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isaac Loloey said...

When jazz fans list there favorite 3 all time sax players, numbers 1 and 2 are typically always Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, and then fill-in-the-blank. That number 3 can be Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter,... That list could go on forever, producing one of the greatest debates among jazz fans, “Who is the 3rd best jazz sax player of all time.

Classic Rock fan, in contrast, do not posses that complex of a debate. In a genre which dominated by guitar, ask most classic rock fan, “Who is the greatest rock sax player of all-time?” and you would get an over-whelming response of “Clarance Clemons” First of all, how many sax players could most rock fans name? Some more discriminating and sophisticated rock fans will mention David Sanborn, as the most well-know session player. Others may mention David Bowie, for doing his own saxophone solos, such as in “Changes”. (David Sanborn has recorded with Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie.)

The Truth is, that there are only a handful of rock songs with sax solos, nothing unfamiliar to fans of Steely Dan, but few and far between for the mainstream rock audience. Typically sax solos in rock, are not preformed by a permanent band member. Usually, they are jazz musicians sitting in as session players that may or may not tour with the band after recording.

Springsteen’s E Street Band was different. He had a sax player as a permanent fixture in his group. And other than Springsteen himself, Clarence was the most recognizable member of the E Street Band.

Although, Clarence’s playing never truly reached the stature of the jazz greats, his impression on rock fans will be permanently burned into there collective consciousness. Listing the greatest sax solos in rock history, very few names will show up twice. Clarence’s best of list will co-inside with the “Best of Bruce”, a huge body of work.

Some people have great talent, and others have the ability to discover it, Bruce posses both skills. Clarence showed great chemistry and was intricate in the E Street Band’s definitive sound.

R.I.P. Big Man. We will miss you.

The Milner Coupe said...

Thank you for this post. And the comments are great. Very melancholy right now. Aloha Big man...

Jeffrey said...

Saddened by hearing the death of Clarence Clemons today. I first came to know his saxophone playing on Born To Run when it came into the college radio station, KFJC, where I did a radio show in Northern California's Los Altos Hills back in the fall of 1975. What a truly innovative, ground-breaking record...a return to rock's roots and yet, something altogether new, exciting and FRESH!

I was blown away back then and still am to this day by Clemons' blowing on the song Born To Run, Meeting Across The River,(perfect, brilliant playing)She's The One, and Jungleland. Absolutely stellar, flawless playing on that song. Perfect.

He was one of the best. Sadly, deeply missed by all of his fans...and more than ever by Bruce.

Mac said...

Very sad to hear about this. He seemed like a totally passionate man who never lost the sheer joy in what he did.

bettyd said...

If always seemed genuine between The Big Man and Bruce. Back in the album days, recall the front of Born to Run with Bruce leaning on someone's shoulder, and the backside of the cover was Clarence.

50 is the new 35 said...

I was fortunate enough to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band a handful of times at the Spectrum in Philly. Philly Springsteen fans are just about as rabid as Jersey Springsteen fans, and those were some amazing, amazing shows. Clarence Clemons was an electric presence on stage - what a dynamic performer!

One of my favorite concert memories: The very last set when they turned up the house lights and the band rocked through a set of covers that had the entire audience dancing and singing ... like seeing your favorite bar band with a few thousand of your best friends. Just an amazing experience ...

I hope that The Big Man is jamming with a big smile up in heaven this week ... he will be missed.

(@Mary Stella - loved your post!)

Cap'n Bob said...

Small world, Jeffrey. I attended Foothill Community College in 1973-74. Did you know Doyne Mraz (theater teacher) or Bart DiPalma (art teacher)?

D. McEwan said...

"denurd said...
Sad day for E Street Nation."


True, but also a sad day for everyone else. And let us not overlook that Clemons was one very sexy big dude. (At his size, he was almost two very sexy big dudes.) He shall be missed very much.

Helena said...

Thanks for posting this. 1000memories created a tribute site for Clarence today - http://1000memories.com/clarence-clemons - thought you'd appreciate it.

Jen said...

My heart is broken. Thanks for remembering the Big Man, Ken. He will be missed.

Ref said...

Clarence Clemons had what the late George Frazier called "duende."