Thinking about Bruce Springsteen without Clarence Clemons is almost impossible. It's the rock equivalent of Buck Owens without his lead guitarist/tenor singer Don Rich. It's just not right.
Clarence Clemons, Springsteen's "Big Man" saxophonist, died today (6/18) at approximately 7:00 p.m. (ET) from complications of a stroke he suffered June 12. The news had been bad from the beginning: his stroke was considered "very serious" according to news reports, and sources reported that Springsteen and fellow E Street Band members were advised to get to Palm Beach, Florida (where Clemons lived and where he was stricken) as soon as possible. Clemons underwent two surgeries on his brain after the stroke and was reported to be "responsive" although paralyzed on his left side following the operations.
Clemons was in the E Street Band at the beginning, playing saxophone that ranged from raucous rock and roll to beautiful soul. He was featured on the cover of Springsteen's legendary breakthrough Born to Run album in 1975, and the song "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" mentioned him in the final verse ("I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh when Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half"). Even Randy Newman mentioned Clemons in his song "My Life is Good," in which he spoofed Springsteen ("Rand, I'm tired, how would you like to be Boss for awhile? Well, blow, Big Man, blow!"). In addition to his work with Springsteen, Clemons released his own music (his duet with Jackson Browne, "You're a Friend of Mine," was an MTV hit in the early 1980s) and played on numerous other recordings.
Shortly after Clemons' passing Bruce Springsteen released this statement:
"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 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."
Rock and roll will never be the same.
Farewell to the great Clarence "Big Man" Clemons. He was 69.