21 June 2011

The E Street Band's "Big Man" Passes On

(top to bottom) Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen

Clarence Clemons, or "Big Man" as Bruce Springsteen used to call across the stage to cue Clarence for one of his trademark sax solos, died last Saturday at 69 due to complications from a stroke. I'm still a bit stunned, so I'm gonna let Clarence tell the story of how he became part of both American cultural and also rock 'n' roll history. While on stage, Bruce often told the story of how he and Clarence met in 1971. Here's the story, retold in various interviews, by Clarence himself:
One night we were playing in Asbury Park. I'd heard The Bruce Springsteen Band was nearby at a club called The Student Prince and on a break between sets I walked over there. On-stage, Bruce used to tell different versions of this story but I'm a Baptist, remember, so this is the truth. A rainy, windy night it was, and when I opened the door the whole thing flew off its hinges and blew away down the street. The band were on-stage, but staring at me framed in the doorway. And maybe that did make Bruce a little nervous because I just said, "I want to play with your band," and he said, "Sure, you do anything you want." The first song we did was an early version of "Spirit In The Night". Bruce and I looked at each other and didn't say anything, we just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other's lives. He was what I'd been searching for. In one way he was just a scrawny little kid. But he was a visionary. He wanted to follow his dream. So from then on I was part of history.
Rest in Peace, Clarence. You touched more lives than you could have ever known.

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