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Died On This Date (June 18, 2011) Clarence Clemons / The Big Man

Posted by themusicsover on June 18, 2011

Clarence Clemons
January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011

With Clarence Clemons at the taping of “Diff’rent Strokes”

Clarence Clemons was the beloved saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  The “Big Man” in size, music and love, Clemons was arguably Springsteen’s equal in terms of fan appreciation night after night after night whenever the E Street Band rolled into town.  He got his first saxophone as a Christmas present from his dad when he was just nine.  But as he grew older, Clemons divided his attention between his music and football – he attended college on scholarships for both.  He quickly caught the eye of the Cleveland Browns who offered him a try out, but just one day before he was supposed to show them what he could do, he was in a serious car accident which ruined any chance he might have had to play in the NFL.  By then however, he was already working as a session player in and around New Jersey.  “And then one night…” as Springsteen said so many times during his concerts, Clemons went to check out Springsteen at a club called The Student Prince.  It was late 1971, and Clemons was on a break from a gig down the street.  As Springsteen remembered it during his acceptance speech when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, “The night I met Clarence, he got up on stage (and) a sound came out of his horn that seemed to rattle the glasses behind the bar, and threatened to blow out the back wall. … But there was something else, something that happened when we stood side by side. Some energy, some unspoken story. … He always lifted me up. Way, way up. Together we told a story of the possibilities of friendship, a story older than the ones that I was writing, and a story I could never have told without him at my side. I want to thank you, Big Man, and I love you so much.”   Clemons went on to be Springsteen’s side man for the better part of the next 40 years.  His most notable performances can be heard such Springsteen classics as “Jungleland,” “Thunder Road,” “The Promised Land,” “Badlands,” and “Prove It All Night.”  Outside of the E Street Band, Clemons released a handful of solo albums and made impressive contributions to recordings by the likes of Gary US Bonds, Aretha Franklin, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Ronnie Spector, Ian Hunter, and the Michael Stanley Band.  In 2012, he guested on Lady Gaga’s chart-topping Born This Way album and performed with her on American Idol, his last public appearance.   Along the way, Clemons dabbled in acting as well, guest starring in such programs and films as Diff’rent Strokes, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Human Target, and most recently, The Wire.  On June 12, 2011, just 2-1/2 weeks after his appearance on American Idol, Clarence Clemons suffered what was reported to be a serious stroke, and six days later he died as a result.  He was 69.  Longtime E Street Band mate Danny Federici died of melanoma in 2008.

Bruce Springsteen’s official comment: “It is with overwhelming sadness that we inform our friends and fans that at 7:00 tonight, Saturday, June 18, our beloved friend and bandmate, Clarence Clemons passed away. The cause was complications from his stroke of last Sunday, June 12th. Clarence lived a wonderful life. 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. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”

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One Response to “Died On This Date (June 18, 2011) Clarence Clemons / The Big Man”

  1. Tony G said

    Condolences to all. Another legend gone too soon. I weep….

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