The Big Man was a big part of the mythology of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Night after night, show after show, the Boss would tell the story about walking down the street, meeting the Big Man and how saxophonist Clarence Clemons became the heart and soul of the E Street Band.
Every night in concert, Springsteen would always introduce Clarence last. Never least. Always the best man, the Big Man. But now the Big Man is gone. Clemons, 69, died Saturday from complications of a stroke suffered a week ago.
When Clemons was stricken in his Florida home, Springsteen immediately flew there from Austria, where he was attending a horse competition with his equestrian daughter.
Since Clemons joined Springsteen in 1970, his saxophone became a defining element in the Boss’ sound – from the strut in “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” (a story about when Clemons joined the band) to the elevating, liberating and triumphant sounds of “ Badlands,” “Born to Run” and so many other songs.
An ex-football player, Clemons was the oldest member of the E Street Band. He was lineman-large but a sweet, gentle soul. He was the kind of guy who could hit on your girlfriend (as he did to mine backstage after a concert in Madison in the late 1970s) and you were more flattered than offended.
Clarence liked to party and his lifestyle caught up with him in recent years, as he battled various ailments. After spending most of the 2009 Springsteen tour riding a golf cart to the stage and then sitting down during the concert, he had both knees replaced and back surgery.
Although no announcements had been made, Springsteen and the E Street Band were preparing to hit the road this fall, according to a source close to the band.
The Boss has just posted a statement at www.brucespringsteen.net.
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