When the change was made uptown, and the Big Man joined the band…
Clarence Clemons, legendary saxophonist and the mountain of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, passed away on Saturday after suffering a stroke last week in Florida. He was 69.
Clemons, a Norfolk, Virginia native, joined what would become the E Street Band in 1972 after meeting Springsteen in an Asbury Park club – whose doors he allegedly tore off in the middle of a lightning storm. Indeed, Clemons, both in physique and personality, was larger than life.
In a statement, Springsteen reflected fondly of his bandmate and friend.
"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 played with numerous other artists, including Ringo Starr and Aretha Franklin. He also released five solo albums, as well as a semi-fictional autobiography in 2009.
His health began to falter in recent years, and he had recently undergone spinal fusion surgery and had both knees replaced. But even those obstacles didn’t stop him from keeping his mighty tenor sax echoing through the consciousness of a new generation of music lovers; Clemons featured in the new single from Lady Gaga, “Edge of Glory.”
Gaga can speak for her own celebrity, but it’s fair to say that Clemons’ legend far surpassed any such boundaries.
Here are some of Clemons’ most legendary saxophone performances with the E Street Band.