There is a silence and a sorrow this morning on the Jersey Shore. The news of the passing of "The Big Man" has left music fans feeling hollow, thinking of the thousand and one nights his horn filled the air with sheer brilliance and joy.
Clarence Clemons died yesterday at the age of 69 after suffering a massive stroke last week in Florida. He takes with him a legacy of greatness and a lifetime of memories shared with millions of Bruce Springsteen fans all over the world.
The news of The Big Man's death not only means the music world will be bereft of his riveting, powerful and wistful solos, but also the end of the E Street Band as we know it. Springsteen's songwriting and stage energy was the band's heart, but Clarence's horn was it's soul.
Springsteen released this statement on his website yesterday....
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.Although his image and impact are indelible, very few people know much about Clemons' life. He had two passions as a young man: music and football. He won scholarships in both to Maryland-Eastern Shore, where he played on the same team as Jets' RB Emerson Boozer. Clarence excelled in music (where he found work as a session musician at age 18) and on the gridiron, eventually garnering interest from the Cleveland Browns. An auto accident kept him from that tryout, leaving The Big Man with a single passion: the saxophone.
"I loved the sport, I loved the game," Clemons told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in February. "I was looking toward a pro career, but God had another plan for me."I first saw the E Street Band play live in the summer of 1978 at Madison Square Garden. I had waited a long time to see Bruce and the boys because they had been playing small clubs and venues after the Born to Run (1975) tour due to contract disputes with management. For a high school kid, clubs were out and being without a car, there was limited access to any nearby college shows they performed.
Boozer said Clemons was "good enough to play pro. There's no question about it."
I recall the power of Clemons' horn, on key and clear as a bell. Sitting ten rows from the stage, I marveled at the cohesiveness of the band, but what stood out most was Clarence. He was a massive man: 6'4" and weighing nearly three bills. He raised the roof of the Garden that night. His virtuous solo in the middle of Jungleland was his signature show-stopper. He did not disappoint....
The E Street Band would go on to make the Meadowlands their home field, playing the the arena and stadium more times than any other act.
For more on the life of Clarence Clemons CLICK HERE