Clarence Clemons, the 69-year-old saxophonist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, whose jovial onstage manner and soul-rooted style made him one of rock’s most beloved sidemen, died Saturday at a hospital in Palm Beach, Fla. The cause was complications of a stroke he suffered last Sunday at his home in Singer Island, Fla.
But inspite of his numerous ailments (he had double knee surgery and even had to perform from a wheelchair at one point) he had suffered over the last few years, his health seemed to be improving. Just last month, he performed with Lady Gaga on the season finale of “American Idol.” So the report about the stroke was unexpected.
The Star-Ledger reports: “Clemons was born in Norfolk, Va., to a Baptist minister who had no love for rock ‘n’ roll. However, he got a saxophone at the age of 9, and when a car accident ruined his budding football career after college, he dedicated himself to music.”
Clemons had played sax in Springsteen’s E Street Band since 1972. He played on such hits as “Born to Run” and “Thunder Road” and is widely credited with helping to shape Springsteen’s sound.Clemons’ sax has been one of the most defining elements of the band’s sound. But his definig position in the band can be explained by the sense of affection and unbreakable camaraderie between Mr. Springsteen and his sax man. In a few E Street Band shows it was told a story about the night in 1971 when the two men met at a bar in Asbury Park, N.J.,where Mr. Springsteen was playing a gig.
When Clemons entered the bar, the wind blew the door off its hinges, and Mr. Springsteen was startled by the towering shadow at the door. Then Mr. Clemons invited himself onstage to play along, and they clicked.Later Clemons recalled: ““I swear I will never forget that moment.I felt like I was supposed to be there. It was a magical moment. He looked at me, and I looked at him, and we fell in love. And that’s still there.” So happened the meeting of two talanted people.
For Bruce Springstee, who was a good friend with Clarence Clemons, it is hard to go throug this tragedy. In the interview he declared: “Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage.”
He added: “His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years. 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 played with other artists, including Ringo Starr and Aretha Franklin. He also released five solo albums, as well as a semi-fictional autobiography in 2009. Clarence also earned his popularity acting in Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York” and other films, and on television shows like “Diff’rent Strokes,” and jamming with President Bill Clinton at the 1993 inaugural ball.[via CNN, CBS News and The NY Times]