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Clarence Clemons, 1942 - 2011

6.18.2011


Clarence Clemons, my favorite and one of the greatest saxophone players EVER, passed away today. He did solo work, but I know him best from his membership in the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen. I've seen him twice in concert with Bruce, and today I wore my t-shirt from the first concert, before I'd even heard of his passing. His most recent work was actually with Lady Gaga, where he played a sax solo for her latest song "Edge of Glory" and even appeared in the video with her.

Clarence is on the cover of the incredible album Born to Run (1975) with Bruce, and on that album is a song called "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" which mentions how the E Street Band and Bruce's musical sound came together when Clarence ('Big Man') joined them:

When the change was made uptown
And the Big Man joined the band
From the coastline to the city
All the little pretties raise their hands
I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh
When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half
With a Tenth Avenue freeze-out, Tenth Avenue freeze-out
Tenth Avenue freeze-out...

Danny Federici, the E Street keyboardist and accordionist, passed away in 2008, and it's so hard to lose such incredible artists, who are clearly part of the Boss's family as well. Clarence had been suffering from problems for many years, specifically in his knees and hips, I believe, and last week he had a stroke.

There are numerous songs that I could post that exhibit Clarence's incredible skill, but I'll think I'll keep it to two. First is "Jungleland" from the Born to Run album. I have this sax solo memorized. At the beginning it bursts into the heart of the song like the cry of a newborn baby, and then takes you through the city streets of heartache and romance and loss... (To only hear his solo skip to 4:00, but if you do that don't tell me because it will BREAK MY HEART. The song is so good, it deserves 10 minutes of your time!)


There are SO many performances of that song on youtube that are incredible, but I love to post the early stuff whenever possible.

The second song Clarence actually sings part of, as do each of the 'frontline' E Street members, "If I Should Fall Behind." I first heard the song when watching my parents' dvd of the Live in New York City concert. That version is still my favorite (and I would love you FOREVER if you ever want to watch my copy with me), and I listen to it all. the. time. (I did so especially following the deaths of my paternal grandparents).

Clarence's sax solo is brilliant as always, and then following it he sings one of my favorite parts of the songs: there's a beautiful river in the valley ahead, there 'neath the oaks' boughs, soon we will wed. Honestly, one of my top ten love songs of all time.


The E Street band will never be the same, and the music world has lost one of its greatest artists.

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