[Updated at 10:30 p.m ET] Legendary rock saxophonist Clarence Clemons died Saturday of complications from a stroke, bandmate Bruce Springsteen said. He was 69.
Clemons had played sax in Springsteen's E Street Band off and on since 1972.
"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," Springsteen said in a statement.
"His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 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."
I'd read in the paper that he'd had a stroke but from the article it sounded like his prognosis was good.
Sat 18 Jun, 2011 10:20 pm
RIP Big Man. Thank you for sharing your talent and joy of life with the rest of us. You helped make my world a better place for you being there.
I've been a Springsteen/E Street Band fanatic since seeing them the night before Halloween in '73 at the Main Point in Bryn Mawr, Pa. The thing I remember best was that a bunch of us were standing outside the box office waiting to see the second show and could hear the sounds of the first show... we had such grins on our teen age faces in anticipation of the next three hours...... and the show..... oh my God. I know that now 38 years latter those days will never come again, but also know that somewhere, someone will have the same sensation of soulful exhilaration listening to the music they love and Clarence Clemmons will be looking down smiling.
Don't know a better two minutes of rock and roll than Clemmons sax solo in Jungleland.
Sat 18 Jun, 2011 10:22 pm
Just heard about this on the radio coming home.
I was thinking about how joyous he always seemed to be in the concerts clips I've seen. You brought in just the perfect example.
Gotta love that smile - it seems like it just bursts out from his core.
Rest in peace Clarence.
Sat 18 Jun, 2011 11:53 pm
Oh Clarence. No words, except to say thank you for some of the music that has brought me the most joy in my life. From the first time I heard those opening bars via your sax of 'Spirits in the Night' from Greetings from Asbury Park when I was thirteen, to today and everytime I listen to your sax solo on Jungleland and cry- EVERYTIME! - you have been such an important part of my musical joy and memory.
Last time I saw you, you walked up onto the stage with the aid of two sticks - but GOD did you play!
It's the last time Danny played with you guys too.
I loved you both for what you gave the world.
Rest in peace.
What a loss. But what a life he lived:
Springsteen saxophonist Clemons dies
New York— The Associated Press
Clarence Clemons, the larger-than-life saxophone player for the E Street Band who was one of the key influences in Bruce Springsteen’s life and music through four decades, has died. He was 69.
Clemons died Saturday night after being hospitalized about a week ago following a stroke at his home in Singer Island, Fla.
Springsteen saxophonist Clemons dies Springsteen acknowledge the dire situation earlier this week, but said then he was hopeful. He called the loss “immeasurable.”
“We are honoured 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.”
Known as the Big Man for his imposing 6-foot-5, 270-plus pound frame, Clemons and his ever-present saxophone spent much of his life with The Boss, and his booming saxophone solos became a signature sound for the E Street Band on many key songs, including Jungleland, a triumphant solo he spent 16 hours perfecting, and Born To Run.
In recent years, Clemons had been slowed by health woes. He endured major spinal surgery in January 2010 and, at the 2009 Super Bowl, Clemons rose from a wheelchair to perform with Springsteen after double knee replacement surgery.
But his health seemed to be improving. In May, he performed with Lady Gaga on the season finale of American Idol, and performed on two songs on her Born This Way album.
Clemons said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press then that he was winning his battles – including severe, chronic pain and post-surgical depression. His sense of humour helped.
“Of all the surgeries I’ve had, there’s not much left to operate on. I am totally bionic,” he said.
“God will give you no more than you can handle,” he said in the interview. “This is all a test to see if you are really ready for the good things that are going to come in your life. All this pain is going to come back and make me stronger.
An original member – and the oldest member – of the E Street Band, Clemons also performed with the Grateful Dead, the Jerry Garcia Band, and Ringo Starr’s All Star Band. He recorded with a wide range of artists including Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison and Jackson Browne. He also had his own band called the Temple of Soul.
The stage “always feels like home. It’s where I belong,” Clemons, a former youth counsellor, said after performing at a Hard Rock Cafe benefit for Home Safe, a children’s charity, in 2010.
Born in Norfolk, Va., Clemons was the grandson of a Baptist minister and began playing the saxophone when he was 9.
“Nobody played instruments in my family. My father got that bug and said he wants his son to play saxophone. I wanted an electric train for Christmas, but he got me a saxophone. I flipped out,” he said in a 1989 interview with the AP.
He was influenced by R&B artists such as King Curtis and Junior Walker. But his dreams originally focused on football. He played for Maryland State College, and was to try out for the Cleveland Browns when he got in a bad car accident that made him retire from the sport for good.
His energies then focused on music.
In 1971, Clemons was playing with Norman Seldin & the Joyful Noise when he heard about the rising singer-songwriter named Springsteen. The two hit it off immediately and Clemons officially joined the E Street Band in 1973 with the release of the debut album Greetings from Asbury Park.
Clemons emerged as one of the most critical members of the E Street Band for different reasons. His burly frame would have been intimidating if not for his bright smile and endearing personality that charmed fans.
“It’s because of my innocence,” he said in a interview. “I have no agenda – just to be loved. Somebody said to me, ‘Whenever somebody says your name, a smile comes to their face.’ That’s a great accolade. I strive to keep it that way.”
But it was his musical contributions on tenor sax that would come to define the E Street Band sound.
“Since 1973 the Springsteen/Clemons partnership has reaped great rewards and created insightful, high energy rock & roll,” declared Don Palmer in Down Beat in 1984. “Their music, functioning like the blues from which it originated, chronicled the fears, aspirations, and limitations of suburban youth. Unlike many musicians today, Springsteen and Clemons were more interested in the heart and substance rather than the glamour of music.”
In a 2009 interview, Clemons described his deep bond with Springsteen, saying: “It’s the most passion that you have without sex.”
“It’s love. It’s two men – two strong, very virile men – finding that space in life where they can let go enough of their masculinity to feel the passion of love and respect and trust,” he added.
Clemons continued to perform with the band for the next 12 years, contributing his big, distinctive sound to the albums, The Wild, The Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle, Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River and Born in the USA. But four years after Springsteen experienced the blockbuster success of Born in the USA and toured with his group, he decided to disband the E Street Band.
“There were a few moments of tension,” the saxophonist recalled in a 1995 interview. “You’ve been together 18, 19 years. It’s like your wife coming to you: ‘I want a divorce.’ You start wondering why? Why? But you get on with your life.”
During the breaks, Clemons continued with solo projects, including a 1985 vocal duet with Browne on the single You’re a Friend of Mine and saxophone work on Franklin’s 1985 hit single Freeway of Love. He released his own albums, toured, and even sang on some songs.
Clemons also made several television and movie appearances over the years, including Martin Scorsese’s 1977 musical, New York, New York, in which he played a trumpet player.
The break with Springsteen and the E Street Band didn’t end his relationship with either Springsteen or the rest of the band members, nor would it turn out to be permanent. By 1999 they were back together for a reunion tour and the release of The Rising.
But the years took a toll on Clemons’ body, and he had to play through the pain of surgeries and other health woes.
“It takes a village to run the Big Man – a village of doctors,” Clemons said in 2010. “I’m starting to feel better; I’m moving around a lot better.”
He published a memoir, Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales, in 2009 and continued to perform.
He is the second member of the E Street Band to pass away: In 2008, Danny Federici, the keyboardist for the band, died at age 58 of melanoma.
Sun 19 Jun, 2011 12:17 am
This is a life that has to be celebrated and there's no better way to do it than to watch this song - I've gone from crying to smiling - you GO Big Man!
The whole E Street band just carved its way through my youth and yound adulthood. I remember Clarence on the bar at the Stone Balloon in Newark Delaware . He would tear down the walls with his sax riffs. The Big Guy will be sorely missed.
To think he might have played fooball for the Browns.
As musicians - they are virtuosos. Every single one of them is a master of his instrument.
I was thinking it's almost sadder that Clarence died than it would be if Bruce died because Bruce will go on making music but it won't be the same without Clarence, will it? Even if he gets another equally as adept session saxonphonist - it just won't be the same.
Oh well, at least we had him for forty years worth of music - that's something - innit?
And he could sing: