Clarence Clemons Dies at 69 – The Big Man Joins the Band in the Sky
When the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band
From the coastline to the city all the little pretties raise their hands.
I’m gonna sit back right easy and laugh
When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half.
Bruce Springsteen, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, Born To Run, 1976
Clarence Clemons, the burly saxophone player who was a charter member of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, died on Saturday, six days after suffering a stroke at his Florida home. He was 69.
The 6-foot-4 musician (nicknamed “The Big Man”) had suffered from numerous ailments over the last few years. He had double knee surgery and even had to perform from a wheelchair at one point. But his health seemed to be improving. Just last month, he performed with Lady Gaga on “The Edge of Glory” during the season finale of “American Idol”.
“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,” Springsteen said on his website, adding the cause was complications from Clemons’ stroke last Sunday.
“His loss is immeasurable and we are honoured and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years,” Springsteen added.
Clemons, dubbed the “Big Man,” started working with Springsteen in 1971. His gritty, evocative saxophone solos powered such notable Springsteen songs as “Born to Run,” “Jungleland,” “Prove It All Night,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” and “Badlands.”
On stage, Clemons proved a worthy foil for Springsteen and his bandmates. In a 1975 concert review, Rolling Stone said Clemons betrayed an “ominous cool” in contrast to guitarist Steven Van Zandt’s “strange hipster frenzy.”
Clemons also dabbled in acting, enjoyed a solo hit single with Jackson Browne, (1985’s “You’re a Friend of Mine”, toured with Ringo Starr, and most recently played on two tracks on pop singer Lady Gaga’s new album.
During sessions for Springsteen’s 1975 breakthrough “Born to Run,” Clemons spent 16 hours recording his solo on “Jungleland,” the nine-minute track that closes the album. “Creating is like religion,” Clemons said later of the marathon session. “I was willing to relinquish myself to him (Springsteen). I’ve had people say to me, ‘That sax solo saved my life.’ So I did my job.”
Here, for one last time then, is video of The Big Man doing his job:
Rest in Peace Clarence Clemons (11 January 1942 – 18 June 2011)