Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clarence Clemons - 1942 - 2011

Clarence Clemons, saxophonist for the E Street Band, passed away tonight at 7:00 PM.  Click HERE to read the statement on Bruce Springsteen's web site.

I'm at a loss as to whether the E Street Band even exists now.  Clarence was such a strong, positive force on stage.  He made the band Cool.  And I say that with a capital C.  While Bruce would be running around, dancing, shirt off, hair mussed, sweating, Clarence would be dressed sharp, commanding the stage with a sax solo, dancing while playing tambourine or maracas, smiling that big smile, laughing that big laugh.  Everything about Clarence was big, he was "THE BIG MAN"!  At my first Bruce concert, at the Philly Spectrum in 1984, Born In The USA tour, the moment everything clicked for me with Bruce was during Clarence's solo during "Jungleland" with Clarence playing that beautiful, beautiful solo and Bruce came around behind the stage where my seats were, and looked right up at me. 

One of my other great Bruce moments was when he was at the end of the "Human Touch" tour with the "other band".  It was one of the last shows of the tour, a benefit for the Central Jersey Food Bank at the Meadowlands arena.  I had great floor seats and Bruce had been playing for over three hours.  Little Steve had joined the band onstage during the previous song and we felt that something special was happening.  The band busted into "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" (I'm getting goosebumps right now reliving this memory), Bruce got to the line "the change was made up town and the Big Man joined the band" and out from the middle of the stage walked Clarence, blowing that sax part and the arena ERUPTED!  The Big Man was back!  Bruce was once again complete! 

He was a superhero with a sax, the master of soul, the king of world, master of the universe.....CLARENCE CLEMONS.  A Bruce Springsteen show will never be the same.

I'll leave you with the story Bruce used to tell during the intro to the slow version of the "E Street Shuffle" that told of his first meeting with Clarence: “There I was in Asbury Park (crowd cheers) on a dark, rainy night, right, it was raining, a hurricane just came in, I’m walking down the street at three in the morning…had my jacket bundled up around me…way down the end of the street walking through the monsoon, I seen this big figure…so I crossed to the other side…when I crossed to the other side, he crossed to the other side…so I crossed back to the other side and now it was coming into shape, dressed in white, walking with a cane, a big guy, walking like there was no rain and the wind wasn’t blowing, just walking like it was a beautiful summer day…and me, I’m hiding in the shadows walking down the street till the guy’s getting closer, so I’m gonna figure I’m gonna duck into this doorway…and wait till he passes by…so I duck into the doorway, I stood in the doorway like this and sure enough I hear them footsteps coming closer and closer…and right where I’m standing, he turns and faces off on me, right…so…I did the normal thing: I was cool, I threw all my money on the ground (laughs from the crowd) threw off my jacket…didn’t move…all he did was he reached out his arm, right…and I was scared (?)…slowly I turn (laughs from the crowd) step by step (crowd cheers) until… sparks fly on E Street…”