Clarence Clemons, 1942 - 2011 updated August 3, 2011
"THE WORLD WE CREATED" This video tribute from Victoria Clemons is, as she writes, "dedicated to our third anniversary that is coming up on August 8, 2011." Victoria continues:
He walked into the restaurant and said: "Thank you for brining beauty into my day" and handed me a flower. These were the very first words my dear husband spoke to me. He was the one who brought beauty into my life and lives of so many people all over the world.....
He brought strength, willpower and wisdom. He spoke a universal language that people all over the world understood. When he made a promise to me he made a promise to God. He loved with all his heart and a kind word.
He made us laugh and made us cry. Despite of his status he didn't realize what a special human being he was.
Whenever I felt down he would ask me if he did something wrong. I would look at him and say you have been loving me and taking care of me, that is all you have done. He would smile.
He would say "If you ever stop loving me, please tell me." I would reply: "You tell me if you stop loving me." Behind his powerful frame there was a 16-year-old boy asking a girl to go on a date. And we did. The date turned into a love story that I will never be able to describe to anyone who wasn't a part of it. Thank you for being part of it.
My husband enriched my life enormously by sharing his family and friends. I am paying a tribute to my dear husband in my heart. He loved me like I didn't believe a man could. I'll cherish my memories of our life together -- the struggles we have been through, the laughs we had and the world we created where our dedication to each other had no boundaries....
I will never stop loving you...
- August 3, 2011
SPARKS FLY Another beautiful tribute from Barbara Pyle, featuring her photographs from the Born to Run tour. [See below for her previous video] - July 25, 2011
VICTORIA CLEMONS ON CLARENCE: "HE WAS MUSIC" The new issue of Rolling Stone, which hits newsstands tomorrow, will contain an extensive tribute to the Big Man, including this interview with his wife Victoria. Clarence's widow recalls their meeting, his relationships with Springsteen and Lady Gaga, his hobbies, his teddy bear, his "love, strength, wisdom, willpower and spirituality."
"He had so much going on at any given moment of his life. He got divorced, got married, wrote a bestselling book, had a bilateral knee replacement surgery, started a two-year tour with Bruce and bought a house during the year of 2008. Most people don’t experience that in their lifetime. Clarence didn't have stereotypes. He loved to experiment. He was married to women from five different continents.
"Clarence Clemons was an exceptional person whose dedication to his family, friends, his band and his wife had no boundaries. He loved passionately. He lived his life like he played his sax without holding back."
I HAD A FRIEND, WAS A BIG FOOTBALL PLAYER... From the Sports section of Sunday's New York Times, William C. Rhoden reflects on Clarence's college pigskin days with a future Jets star running back: "How many musicians can say they opened holes for Emerson Boozer? How many offensive lineman can say they blazed a trail with Bruce Springsteen? Either way you play it, that’s a life well lived."
- July 11, 2011 - photograph: University of Maryland Eastern Shore
A MESSAGE FOR CLARENCE CLEMONS' BELOVED FANS
From Melvon "Bill" Clemons, and on behalf of Clarence's four sons, Nick, Charles, Christopher and Jarod
Thanks to each and every one of you for your heartfelt words of condolence during our family's time of grieving. Your messages of love and support continue to be a great source of strength for our family during this difficult time.
My brother Clarence will never cease to be our "Big Man," and I believe he will live in our hearts forever. The joy and love he spread through his music and his charismatic personality are the gifts he left behind for each and every one of us.
Again, thank you.
And may we all carry on the legacy of Clarence Clemons.
God bless you all.
- July 9, 2011 - photograph by Billy Smith
J.T. BOWEN TO THE RESCUE, 7/17 AT THE WONDER BAR The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park will host a "Tribute to the Late Great Clarence Clemons" on Sunday, July 17. The Soul Cruisers will be on hand for a performance of Clarence and the Red Bank Rocker's debut album Rescue in its entirety featuring a very special guest, original RBR lead singer J.T. Bowen. Clarence's son Nick is also expected to appear. For more info, see Facebook and WonderBarAsburyPark.com. - July 8, 2011
"GOD BLESS YOU CLARENCE, WE LOVE YOU C..." In the most recent Note From Nils, Nils Lofgren thanked fans for all the "condolences for the loss of my dear friend and bandmate, Clarence" and wrote, "I am off to sing and play for you again and hope to see many of you on the musical road." Nils went out to play seven shows over the past week, from Tarrytown through last night in NYC, and a major highlight was this tribute, "Miss You C." Nils hits the road again in August with a string of West Coast dates see NilsLofgren.com for more info. - July 7, 2011
A TIP OF THE HAT FROM BOB With Bob Dylan's August 14 Asbury Convention Hall show on pre-sale now, we appreciated seeing what he used for a pre-sale password.
THE SHIVE ARCHIVE REMEMBERS CLARENCE Longtime Backstreets contributing photographer Jim Shive has put together RIP Big Man: A Tribute to Clarence in Photographs, culled from his remarkable archive of E Street Band concert shots from the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s. A fine vintage. - June 30, 2011 - photograph by James Shive
LITTLE STEVEN'S TRIBUTE TO AIR FRIDAY NIGHT ON SIRIUS XM This weekend on Little Steven's Underground Garage, Show #483 is "Fireworks A Go-Go 2011." But if you missed #482 which had Steve breaking his format wide open in remembrance of the Big Man you can catch "For Clarence" Friday night on the SiriusXM Underground Garage channel.
"For Clarence" features Little Steven reflecting on the career of his beloved bandmate and friend, sharing stories and personal recollections. Alongside classic Clarence moments from the E Street repertoire (including "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out," "Mary Lou" and "Jungleland"), Steve spins songs from Clarence's solo career including "You're a Friend of Mine" and his cameos on other artists' records, like "Freeway of Love" with Aretha Franklin and "All of the Good Ones Are Taken" with Ian Hunter.
The two-hour special also includes archival interview excerpts with Clarence and audio selections from his appearances in movies and TV, including the 1977 movie New York, New York, the TV series Different Strokes, and the HBO series The Wire.
BIG MAN, LITTLE KIDS, PART II
With Little Kids Rock, Clarence worked to improve public music education In addition to Home Safe, another charity Clarence supported is Little Kids Rock, which honored him in 2009 with their inaugural Big Man of the Year award. Little Kids Rock works to restore and revitalize music education in U.S. public schools, bringing free musical instruments and music instruction to underserved schools across the country. Here's what Clarece said:
More than 50 percent of kids who play an instrument go on to college, yet music education programs at the inner city public schools who need them most continue to be hit hard with budget cuts. Little Kids Rock has responded to this problem in a really big way and made a positive impact on the lives of literally thousands of low-income students who wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity. I strongly encourage those who are in a position to do so to support their cause and spread the word about this inspirational program.
The organization has posted a Tribute to Clarence page, including the above video with Little Kids Rock students, and a statement from Executive Director David Wish: "Clarence's passing is extremely devastating news and the entire Little Kids Rock family will miss him. He was a big man, indeed, because of his enormous heart and generosity toward our children. He believed in our mission to bring music education to children nationwide, and because of his passion for music and for children, his legacy will live on forever as we will honor him annually by presenting 'The Big Man of the Year' award to an individual who echoes Clarence's desire to make sure that all children have the right to rock."
Clarence doesn't leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die. So, I'll miss my friend, his sax,
the force of nature his sound was,
his glory, his foolishness, his accomplishments,
his face, his hands, his humor, his skin,
his noise, his confusion, his power, his peace.
But his love and his story,
the story that he gave me,
that he whispered in my ear,
that he allowed me to tell...
and that he gave to you...
is gonna carry on. Bruce Springsteen
BIG MAN, LITTLE KIDS
With Home Safe, Clarence worked to help abused and neglected children A number of fans have contacted us asking if there have been any specific charities designated for donations in Clarence's memory. Without any official word along those lines, we recommend the Home Safe Foundation. (Home Safe can also be found on Facebook.)
The Palm Beach-based non-profit has been working for more than 30 years to help victims of child abuse and domestic violence; it's a charity that was close to Clarence's heart. As WPBF reports, he helped raise millions for Home Safe over the past five years, hosting the Clarence Clemons Classic Rock & Roll Party annual fundraiser.
This fall, that annual fundraiser becomes the Clarence Clemons Rock & Roll Tribute, to be held Saturday, October 1 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in honor of Clemons' life and all he has done for Home Safe. According to the WPBF report, Gary U.S. Bonds, Steve Van Zandt, and Max Weinberg are amongt those expected to attend.
"DO I HAVE TO SAY HIS NAME?" A video put together by Who Do I Think I Am? director Nick Mead. Nick tells Backstreets: "We spent a lot of time together on the road, filming everything we could, here's a little tribute. Cut together to Clarence's favorite track off The Promise, which he played over and over when I was with him a few weeks before the sadness.
WBUR's On Point: "Remembering Springsteen's Saxman, Clarence Clemons" features Robert Santelli, Tim Riley, and T.M. Stevens. [Listen online]
The June 26 BET Awards opened its annual memorial tribute with a salute to Clarence.
Jimmy Buffet dedicated "Stories We Could Tell" to Clarence in Pittsburgh last week, and broke out "Glory Days" in the Big Man's memory two days later in Camden.
The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon dedicated "Meet Me By the River's Edge": "This song was always a nod to Springsteen... the song's about keeping on, so this one's for Clarence right now."
- June 27, 2011
FOR CLARENCE: THE UNDERGROUND GARAGE PAYS TRIBUTE Over the weekend, the latest installment of Little Steven's Underground Garage was titled, simply, "For Clarence." Show #482 found Steven, as he writes, "changing our format to do a tribute to Clarence, his solo work with The Red Bank Rockers, his acting roles, and of course his unforgettable work with the E Street Band."
During the show, Steven spoke movingly about his "lifelong friend and brother":
Thank you for blowing life-changing energy and hope into this miserable world with your big, beautiful lungs. And thank you for sharing a piece of that big heart nightly with the world. It needs it. You and that magnificent saxophone, celebrating, confessing, seeking redemption and providing salvation all at once. Speaking wordlessly, but so eloquently, with that pure sound you made. The sound of life itself.
Look for the broadcast to be posted in the Archives in the next day or so. In the meantime, Jay Lustig has transcribed a portion of this soul-stirring Underground Garage eulogy at NJ.com. "Rock 'n' roll is our religion," Steve said, "and we will continue to lose disciples as we go, but we pick up the fallen flag and keep moving forward." Lustig notes in particular the silver lining Steven's words provide: "For those wondering if the death of Clarence Clemons will mean the end of the E Street Band: Steven Van Zandt doesn't seem to think so... Van Zandt, after talking about the bond that the musicians of any great band have with each other, said: "We will continue to make music and perform. Let's face it, that's all we really know how to do. But it will be very different without him."
HEART AND SOUL IN PHILLY The Swell Season's Glen Hansard has been known to pull out a powerful cover of "Drive All Night," and Eddie Vedder has been one of the more prominent artists to pay tribute to Clarence Clemons over the past week. Last night, they joined forces in Philly with some extra magic, courtesy of none other than Clarence's nephew Jake. Longtime Backstreets reader Jack Grosso was there:
Hoping for a Bruce song at the Eddie Vedder show at the Tower Theater last night.... During the encore Eddie brings Glen Hansard back from his opening set and explains that as a special tribute we have another special guest from Glen's Band: Jake Clemons. Jake holds up a sax as a tribute and acknowledgement of his uncle and our Big Man lights are up, crowd is delirious.
Glen has an acoustic guitar, Eddie moves over to piano and starts in on "Drive All Night." Unbelievable! It was very close to the full album, with Eddie and Glen trading verses, and then at the exact right instant, Jake comes in on the sax. He sounded nearly as powerful as Clarence and hit every note perfectly. I'm not a musician it's all magic to me but Jake plays a beautiful sax.
And as for magic, during "Drive All Night," Jake stood in the very same spot I saw Clarence Clemons on December 27, 1975 which was the first night Bruce and the E Street Band ever played the Tower Theater.
- June 26, 2011
FROM A TENEMENT WINDOW A TRANSISTOR BLASTS Envision Radio Networks and Tom Cunningham's Bruce Brunch are paying tribute to the legacy of Clarence Clemons with a one-hour radio special that will air this weekend on over 60 U.S. stations. The radio tribute features an hour's worth of some of the very best Clarence moments recorded with Springsteen and the E Street Band, and Cunningham will share audio from his interviews with Clemons over the years.
On his Bruce Brunch program on 105.7 The Hawk this past Sunday, Tom was on the front lines, hosting an extended three-hour program on the first morning we woke up without a Big Man in the world: "For those three hours people wanted to commiserate with likewise fans, people who love the music, for people who love that scene. I knew I would be that first voice," Cunningham told Stan Goldstein for NJ.com. "I wanted to make sure I delivered a worthy show for Clarence and the fans first and foremost and then myself."
Download the special three-hour Bruce Brunch from June 19 here.
- June 24, 2011
Photographer Barbara Pyle was there for much of the making of Born to Run; she used her images from the mid-'70s for this stunning tribute. - June 24, 2011
WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE SEE THE BORN TO RUN COVER?
Clarence says, "I'm on the back."
Photographer Eric Meola deconstructs it, describing the making-of with exquisite outtakes, here.
THEY'RE RINGIN' THE FLAG DOWN New Jersey Governor and outspoken Bruce Springsteen fan Chris Christie ordered flags across the state to be flown at half-mast today, Thursday, June 23, to honor the Big Man.
Gov. Christie states, "Clarence Clemons represented the soul and spirit of New Jersey. His partnership with Bruce Springsteen and the rest of the E Street Band brought great pride to our state and joy to every fan of this music around the world... On a personal note, when I heard about the Big Man's passing on Saturday night, I was struck with an overwhelming feeling that the days of my youth were now finally over. My condolences to Clarence's family and all the members of the E Street Band."
The Governor's Executive Order begins:
WHEREAS, Clarence A. Clemons, Jr., was a gifted musician, remarkable performer and iconic figure in New Jersey whose membership in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and various other musical and entertainment related endeavors have left an indelible mark upon the cultural landscape of our State...
The flag atop the Convention Hall in Asbury Park had already been lowered on Tuesday. It was also lowered to half-mast in June 2008 after the death of 'Madam Marie' Castello.
A makeshift memorial display outside the Stone Pony remains in place with signs, photo, and messages in memory of Clemons. - June 23, 2011 - photographs and report by Mike Black
"CELEBRATION OF LIFE" HELD TUESDAY IN PALM BEACH As the Palm Beach Daily News reported, a private memorial service a "Celebration of Life" was held yesterday for Clarence Clemons in Palm Beach, FL, attended by 150 friends and family members including Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, and the entire E Street Band. The Associated Press reported that it was a two-hour service held at the Royal Poinciana Chapel, featuring an "eloquent" eulogy from Springsteen:
Clarence was a man of unconditional love, but his love came with a lot of conditions... He was a complex guy … an ongoing project. But when you were in his presence, it was like being in a sovereign nation.
One attendee tells Backstreets, "Bruce was amazing. Beyond amazing. We've come to expect this from him by now, but his eulogy was just perfect: he pulled no punches, it was very honest, and of course it was full of love and truly befitting." Many others spoke as well, including Clarence's nephew, Jacob (who also offered "Amazing Grace" on saxophone); his brother, Bill; his wife, Victoria; and all four of his sons.
Springsteen performed an acoustic version of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" on guitar, and Nils Lofgren offered up a moving solo acoustic performance for "C" as well. As a finale, Jackson Browne took lead on "You're a Friend of Mine," along with Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Meanwhile in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on Thursday, "in special recognition of [Clarence's] contributions to the state, people, and culture of New Jersey" [NJ.com].
Phish covered "Thunder Road" last night in honor of the Big Man. Audio is here. Video is here. Official download available at livephish.com.
The Drive-By Truckers took the stage at the Clearwater Festival to "Tenth Avenue-Freeze-out" and dedicated their set to Clarence [Forbes.com]
And Bon Jovi broke out "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out." Video is here.
Editorial cartoonist Joe Licar, Gatehouse Media (posted with permisson):
- June 20, 2011
20TH OF JUNE, ASBURY PARK June 20, 2011 - Photograph courtesy Tom Kaminski / WCBS Chopper 880.
BORN TO RUN COVER PHOTOGRAPH SHOT 36 YEARS AGO TODAY On June 20, 1975, photographer Eric Meola captured the now-iconic image above in his Manhattan studio. Sean Kirst spoke with Meola for the Syracuse Post-Standard:
Meola said the photo mattered on several levels. In a basic way, it captured the love and fraternity between two musicians at the core of a seismic moment in rock and roll. Yet it also made a more profound statement, Meola said. He knows it was no accident that Springsteen chose Clemons, of all the members of the band, to be his companion on the cover of what they sensed would be an album of groundbreaking importance.
“Clarence was black and Bruce was white, and when they started playing together it was at a moment when that just didn’t happen that much,” Meola said. “Some of it is subliminal; the album was all black and white, and the cover was black and white, and they were dressed in black and white. Many people loved the way they played off each other onstage, and I think Clarence opened up a whole other way, a little like Jackie Robinson was with baseball: It just cleared the air out. And I don’t think that’s emphasized enough.”
"The way I look at it, what’s monumental to me, is the camaraderie and friendship,” Meola tells Kirst. “I was lucky to get that photograph, I’m just glad I was there and I’d give anything for Clarence still to be alive.”
I want you to think about the beautiful symphonic sound that came out of one man's saxophone.
I want you to think about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band of Brothers.
I want you to think of Clarence Clemons.
This man just carried music and music carried him until this day.
- June 19, 2011
REAL LIFE AND TALL TALES Recommended reading since Saturday night:
19th OF JUNE, ASBURY PARK An impromptu memorial display of signs, photos, and flowers assembled by fans sprang up outside the Stone Pony in Asbury Park following the Big Man's death on Saturday. The Pony, practically synonymous with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, announced today that it would open its doors to the public for anyone who wished to visit to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Clarence Clemons. A gorgeous Father's Day Sunday made for a packed Asbury Park boardwalk; inside the Pony, a display of photos and flowers were onstage, and a steady stream of fans came in to listen to the music of Bruce and the E St Band. Nate Scherber has more in the New York Times:"Grieving, From Asbury Park" - June 19, 2011 - report and photograph by Mike Black
DANCING TO THE RECORDS THAT THE DJ PLAYS
Jungleland. 6:00 tonight. Be there. Turn that mother up as loud as it can go: RollingStone.com Executive Producer (and Bruce fan) Ben French is rallying the troops for a worldwide broadcast/playing of "Jungleland" today at 6pm EST. (If you're not in EST, try the Time Zone Converter to figure out the corresponding time in your city.)
At 8pm EST tonight, Dave Marsh will be hosting a live tribute show on E Street Radio on Sirius/XM.
Rich Russo from WXRP-FM 101.9 in New York City is doing a full hour in tribute to Clarence at 11pm EST. WXRP streams online at 1019rxp.com and is available via iPhone app. - June 19, 2011 - Caryn Rose reporting
The King of the Universe, the Big Kahuna, the Prince of the City, the Duke of Paducah also known as the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, began his 40 year friendship and musical association with Bruce Springsteen in September of 1971 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The Bruce Springsteen Band was playing at the Student Prince over on Kingsley Avenue, and Clarence was appearing with Norman Seldin and the Joyful Noyze a few blocks away at the Wonder Bar on Asbury Avenue.
As the legend has been told over the years, the door to the club "lifted off and blew off down the street as a large shadow of a man stepped into the back room beside the band." Was it King Curtis? Was it Junior Walker? "He walked to the stage and said, 'I wanna play with you.' What could I say? I said 'sure.'"
This was the moment when "We made that change uptown and the Big Man joined the band" as commemorated in "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out," the song consistently referred to by Bruce as "the story of the band."
A less colorful (although likely more factually correct) version of that story would relate that Clarence simply strolled a few blocks down the street and around the corner to see what the competition was up to. Some people insist that the door did, indeed, get blown off its hinges due to a storm in the area that night. But what did happen was that Clarence and Bruce met for the first time although they had traveled in the same New Jersey musical circles for a while and Clarence was invited to play with the band. He didn't formally join forces with Bruce until almost a year and many surprise guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen with the Joyful Noyze later, as they embarked on tour for the first time in the late fall of 1972 and then in support of Greetings from Asbury Park. (At the time, Norman Seldin and the Joyful Noyze was more successful, and more lucrative, than the Bruce Springsteen Band, and as related in Clarence's autobiography, Big Man, his departure from the Joyful Noyze was termed "a big mistake.")
"Without Scooter, there is no Big Man" Clarence Clemons, from Big Man
Clarence became "The Big Man," back in the day when everybody in the band had a nickname. He became known for his fashion flair, rivaling his compatriot Miami Steve Van Zandt on the other side of the stage. ("Back when this was a band that wore hats!") The white suit, the red suit, the hats, the ties, the scarves... it all became part and parcel of the legend, down to the dreadlocks he grew later and the majestic cape he wore on the Working on a Dream tour.
Clarence was the onstage foil, the straight man, the counterpart. He became larger than he already was in real life, a superhero whose reputation was reinforced by the endless stream of superlatives attached to his name when Bruce introduced the band every night. "King of the world master of the universe do I have to say his name?" The introductions became a much-anticipated, treasured part of the live show, working their way through the entire band, applause growing as the audience knew what came next. Sometimes it was a simple recitation of facts and sobriquets ("best-selling author!" or "Socrates of the Saxophone!"), other times Bruce would take a leaf out of the Stax-Volt treasury and get the audience to spell his name a la Otis: "'C' is for cool, which only a foolish man would dispute! 'L' is for lean and mean! 'A' is 'cause he's the ace of the saxophone!...."
Bruce and Clarence were Scooter and the Big Man, they were black and white, they were big and small. It was still a bold move in the early '70s, especially in some parts of the country, to have an African-American in your band, much less one you danced with, rubbed butts with and engaged in a long soulful kiss with; the country was only a few years out of the Civil Rights movement and there are stories of gigs the band didn't get and hotels they were told they weren't welcome in. But the pairing would become iconic, forever commemorated in Eric Meola's now-legendary cover photo for Born to Run; 34 years later, the world was greeted with the almost identical image as the E Street Band began their set during halftime at the Super Bowl in 2009.
This was in addition to Clarence's active participation, or at least invocation, in the gamut of stories Bruce told onstage. It was Clarence who walked through the woods with Bruce to find the gypsy woman, or it was Clarence that gave him the directions to find God to ask him whether he should be a writer or a lawyer. It was Clarence with whom Bruce drove through the wind and the snow and the tornado, the car falling apart, until the radio broke. It was Clarence in the forest when they were visited by Little Melvin and the Invaders in the spaceship. Clarence was there when Bruce and Steve sat on the porch trying to get up their nerve to talk to Pretty Flamingo, and it was Clarence on the park bench showing off the pictures of his son. He was front and center with Bruce exhorting the crowd after they played their respective solos during "Badlands." He was the anchor of his side of the stage and during the general admission shows of recent years, his side of the pit filled up first.
Clarence's horn solidified the soul in E Street. Bruce recruited Clarence to complete the final tracks of the Greetings from Asbury Park album and then to join the band and head out on tour. "Rosalita" or "Growin' Up" would be unthinkable now without Clarence's role. The saxophone as played by Clarence Clemons soon became a trademark of the Springsteen sound, culminating with its classic role in the Born to Run album. And what a role that would be: what would become the trademark solo in "Thunder Road"; the intro and backbeat to the band's own folk tale, "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out"; the clarion call in "Born to Run"; and the now-legendary, haunting wail in "Jungleland," which would become Clarence's signature solo. On the cover, there they were: Scooter and the Big Man, Soul Brother Number One and his most loyal disciple.
While the sax was present in three key solos on Darkness on the Edge of Town and showed up on several places on Born in the U.S.A., it was on The River that the sax was practically everywhere: "The Ties That Bind." "Sherry Darling." "Independence Day." "Out in the Street." The main riff to "Cadillac Ranch," the heartbreaking solo on "Drive All Night," even the carnal underpinnings in the background of "Ramrod." Additionally, who could forget the original composition created and named just for him: "Paradise by the 'C'," a highlight of live shows in the '70s and on the Live: 1975/85 box set for those who couldn't be there to see it in person.
As befitting the master of the universe, Clarence had other interests as well: he was a rock club owner (Big Man's West in Red Bank); an actor, with recurring roles on TV shows (from Nash Bridges to The Wire) and some movie work (notably in Scorcese's New York, New York). He also had a small but notable solo career, reaching #18 on the charts with "You're a Friend of Mine." He toured in the first incarnation of Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band and sat in with the Grateful Dead several times. His session work ranged from Aretha Franklin's comeback hit "Freeway of Love" to his most recent work with Lady Gaga.
In recent years, Clarence’s instrument played a key role in modern classics such as "Land of Hope and Dreams," "My City of Ruins" and "Long Walk Home," each number demonstrating that the saxophone remained at the core of the E Street Band sound. Plus, if he wasn't playing the horn during the show, the Big Man made key contributions on backing vocals or on maracas, tambourine, chimes, and penny whistle. His vocal spotlight in "Out in the Street" and his verse of "If I Should Fall Behind" reminded us that there was power in the voice, not just in the horn. And if he wasn't doing any of those things, Clarence was far from idle: He danced. He smiled. He clapped. He shook his butt. He was an always somewhat mysterious, somewhat beatific, always smiling presence in the band.
Even when his mobility had decreased, his presence on the E Street stage remained as large as ever. He strolled on last before Bruce, always to loud and enthusiastic applause, and when his knees couldn't walk up the steps to the stage any longer, Bruce had an elevator installed for him. Sometimes the Big Man would need a break from standing, and rather than just have a chair or a stool, he was provided with an ornate, golden throne, illuminated from underneath. It seemed only right and fitting.
As long as we tell the stories, as long as we play the songs, as long as we remember, the Big Man will always be with us.
Caryn Rose and Glenn Radecki, June 18, 2011
Photographs by Michael Zorn (1, 4, 9), A.M. Saddler (2, 3, 6), Bob Zimmerman (5), Guy Aceto (7), and Joseph Quever (8, 10).
LATEST ARRIVAL "Bruce Springsteen: The Boss" hardcover, by UK rock critic Mick Wall
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