Published Jun 19, 2011The world of rock'n'roll took a hard hit on Saturday (June 18) when Clarence Clemons, saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, died as a result of a recent stroke. Clemons had the stroke earlier in the month on June 12; it left him hospitalized and partially paralysed.
Clemons, known as the "Big Man," was the only member of the E Street Band who appeared on the cover of Springsteen's classic Born to Run album and was a vital part of the band's sound and, especially, their live performance. Clemons and Springsteen worked off each other in a notoriously playful way during their concerts, with Springsteen always introducing Clemons last, in a humorously overdramatic fashion. Clemons had played with Springsteen since the E Street Band's formation in 1972; there were hiatuses but the Big Man and the Boss always ended up together again.
Musically, Clemons will never be forgotten in Springsteen songs like "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," where he even gets a lyrical nod from Bruce ("We made that change uptown/and the Big Man joined the band") followed by a now-famous sax line (and, always, the roar of the crowd). In "Jungleland," Clemons plays the only sax solo that ever made this hard-nosed rock fan shed a tear, and "Secret Garden" was a great example of sensual sax playing that didn't get cheesy, ever.
Unfortunately, Clemons had been battling health problems as of late. Last year, he had spinal surgery to help him deal with the back pain that had troubled him for years; he also had double knee replacement surgery.
Clemons has played with many other musicians over the years as well, most recently lending his sax abilities to Lady Gaga for her Born this Way album. Springsteen's last studio album was 2009's Working on a Dream.
In a statement on his site, Springsteen said the following:
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 it's impossible to imagine a Springsteen show without Clemons's huge smiles, booming voice and wailing sax, it sounds as if the band will continue, which is surely how the Big Man would have wanted it.
Clemons is survived by Victoria, his wife, and four children, all sons.
RIP, Big Man.