Another sad day for fans of rock music and Jersey boys like myself. Clarence Clemons passed away in Florida yesterday, a week after suffering a massive stroke.
Bruce Springsteen to me was always Bruce Springsteen AND THE E-STREET BAND. I’ve seen Springsteen numerous times in my life, but only while he toured with the rest of the band, as Springsteen without the E-Street band just wasn’t “The Boss.” No one was more integral to the E-Street sound than Clarence Clemons. The Big Man was a big presence on stage and a big part of the E-Street Band sound. “Jungleland” and “10th Avenue Freeze Out” highlighted his powerful and beautiful sax solos. Though they were early Springsteen hits, the crowd always clamored for them, mainly to hear the Big Man’s work.
My first Springsteen show was 30 years ago during The River tour. I loved everything about the nearly 4 hour show, but walked out amazed by the passion and skill of the E-Street band, with the Big Man, Mighty Max and Professor Roy Bittan first and foremost. They were the power behind the might E-Street Band.
Over the years I’ve seen the band a handful of other times, and watched them change musical direction just as many times. But, the mighty sax of Clemons was a constant. I’ll forgive him for the poppy 80’s hit “You’re a Friend of Mine” with Jackson Brown, and his horrendous red leather outfit. But, even there, that sax was perfect – just beautiful stuff.
The last time I saw the band was aweek after Danny Federici passed a few years ago, when the band started out the show with “Blood Brothers” and a moving video tribute to Danny. It turned out to be a huge celebration of his life and his contributions to the E-Street Band. Clarence sounded great that night, but you could tell the years were catching up. He was, well, showing his age. I wondered if I’d ever see him on-stage again. I was thinking retirement, not his untimely death. Somehow if there’s a next E-Street Tour, I’m just not sure they’ll be able to do the same justice for Clemons, absent his fantastic saxophone.
I’ll leave you with this nugget. This song used to be the bed for my classic rock show back in college, and features the keyboards of Danny Federici and the might saxophone from The Master of Disaster, Emperor of the World, King of the Universe and Mayor of Half of Bayonne – The Big Man himself: Clarence Clemons.