Remembering "The Big Man" Clarence Clemons (1942-2011)

It is a sad day today in music & in our lives as we lost a friend, "the Big Man" Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band has passed away after complications from a stroke he suffered in Florida last week.

Clarence Anicholas Clemons Jr. was born on January 11, 1942 in Norfolk Virgina. He became intrested in gospel music being a Southern Baptist as well as King Curtis & his work with the Coasters. He attended Maryland State College on a musical scholarship. He played football & was a team mate of Emerson Boozer. His football career was cut short by a serious car accident at a time when the Cleveland Browns were showing interest in drafting him.

Clemons eventually married & moved to New Jersey. Throughout the sixties he worked in Newark, New Jersey as a counsellor for emotionally disturbed children. Clemons joined various bands & was playing with a popular Jersey Shore guy named Norman Seldin. One night while playing at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park he learned a guy named Bruce Springsteen was playing a few doors down. He had heard about Bruce from a mutual female friend who was singing in his band. He walked over to the Student Prince club where Bruce was playing in between his sets & checked him out.

He told Bruce he wanted to join his band, the door literally blew off the club that night due to a storm. Eventually the two did "Spirits in the Night" together & they knew they were the missing links to their music.

When Bruce did his debut album he called on Clarence to play the sax parts he needed. When he put together a touring band to promote the album, he asked Clarence to be his sax man. The original version of the E Street Band was formed officially by 1974: Bruce, Clarence, Danny Federici, Gary Tallent, David Sancious & Vinnie Lopez got their name from a street in Belmar, NJ that they rehearsed on.

From that point forward Clarence & Bruce became the best of friends. Together with  the E. Street band they became one of the greatest rock & roll bands of all time. Their tours & performances are legendary as well as the music they made on record. The Big Man will live on the great solos for Born To Run, Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, Jungle Land, Bad Lands, Prove It All Night, Promised Land, Out In The Street, Cadillac Ranch, Rosalita, Spirits In the Night, The Rising, Sherry Darling, Ramrod & so many more.

Who could ever forget all the classic introductions Bruce has given Clarence through the years, the last member of the band to be introduced. Maybe the best of all was "Do I need to say his name? the crowd roared.

Personal memory: I was lucky enough to spend half a concert on the 20000 Tour in front of the stage at Madison Square Garden under Clarence. It was there I saw how big he actually was in person & how big his hands were when he gave us all high fives in the front row. Quite a thrill.

Clarence has also had a successful solo career, as well as playing on tour with Ringo Starr & appearing live with the Grateful Dead. He did the song "Your a Friend of Mine" with Jackson Browne, & had guest appearances with Aretha Franklin (Freeway of Love) Twisted Sister (Be Cruel To Your School) & Lady Ga Ga (The Edge of Glory) . He also did work with Zuchero, Joe Cocker, Roy Orbison, Greg Lake, Alvin Lee, Ronnie Spector, Luther Vandross, Janis Ian, Ian Hunter & Michael Stanley.

He was featured in movies such as Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Blues Brothers 2000 & New York New York. He was in many TV shows (the Simpsons, Different Strokes, Nash Bridges,  Jake & the Fat Man, My Wife & Kids & The Wire). 

Clarence was married five times & has four children. He was legally blind in one eye, has had spinal surgery & a knee replacement in recent years. Sadly he is the second member of the E Street Band to pass on, we lost Danny Federici in 2008.

We are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years," Springsteen said on his website. "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."


Jeannie Arcuri said…
Nice memorium, Louie! The E Street band will never be the same...but Clarence will alwasys live on in the incredible music he made!
Anonymous said…
Greetings from Sweden a big man who has played a big part of my life since 1979...Thank´s for the story.

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