R.I.P. Clarence Clemons


On the cover of 1975’s Born To Run, it is saxophonist Clarence Clemons that Bruce Springsteen leans on, the pair caught in a moment of laughing camaraderie. For decades, Clarence was the rock, at least subtly & psychologically, the entire E Street Band set their foot upon, a presence as much spiritual as it was musical, a rock ‘n’ roll shaman for one of the genre’s great tribes. Clemons suffered a massive stroke on June 12, 2011 and passed away due to complications on Saturday, June 18th. He is gone and the E Street Band and the world in general is a little poorer, a little sadder without him.

Bruce Springsteen issued the following statement on his website:

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.

Clemons was the classic R&B thrust inside the blue-collar grind of his band, a touch of rough-brewed class that surfaced in saxophone work that sang what words could not in Springsteen’s songs. On the last full E Street tour, Clarence spent much of each show seated on a cushy throne onstage. It seemed an appropriate prop for the man, a sign one was in the presence of royalty. Clemons’ magic touched not only E Street but countless others, his energy and chops infusing tunes by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Todd Rundgren and even most recently Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory.” Clemons was someone folks wanted to be near, someone imbued with a richness and understanding of things that goes beyond our ability to explain. In music and memory he will live on and on, even if his throne will forever more remain empty. (Dennis Cook)

[Published on: 6/20/11]

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