Clarence Clemons, the legendary saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, died on Saturday after suffering a stroke. He was 69.
Throughout nearly four decades, Clemons was a driving force behind the E Street Band’s sound, with his larger-than-life solos influencing Springsteen’s signature sound. Early hits such as “Born To Run” and “Thunder Road” showcase his booming talent, and trace his influence on Springsteen’s musical career all the way back to the Stone Pony, the New Jersey rock club where their passions for music came together in 1972. According to Clemons himself in 2009, they were “inseparable” from the moment they met, and he described their bond as “the most passion that you have without sex.” This deep connection would come to life on stage during the E Street Band’s epic live performances, where the music was heightened by their smiles and their palpable fusion.
“We are honoured and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years,” Springsteen said on his website. “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 was nicknamed “Big Man” due to his 1m93 towering frame, which made his presence even more striking.
He was born in Virginia in 1942, and began playing the saxophone at the early age of nine after an unexpected gift from his father. He said in a 1989 interview “I wanted an electric train for Christmas, but he got me a saxophone. I flipped out”.
Clarens started out as an American football player who dreamed of playing for the Cleveland Browns, but after a car accident that forced him to retire from sports, his focus turned to music. He was playing with Norman Seldin & the Joyful Noise in New Jersey when he heard of Bruce Springsteen, a singer-songwriter who was already creating a buzz. The rest is history.
“I have no agenda- just to be loved” said Clemons in a 2003 interview. Along with his brilliant music career, he definitely fulfilled that goal.
In the words of Bryan Adams, Canadian rocker: “RIP Clarence Clemons, one of the greatest rock sax players.”