Legendary saxophonist Clarence Clemons, better known to admirers and friends as the ‘Big Man’, died of complications from a stroke he suffered last week. He was 69.
Clemons, who played alongside Bruce Springsteen at the E Street Band, made indelible imprints in rock and roll through evergreen hits like 'Born To Run,' 'Thunder Road,' 'Jungleland,' and 'Dancing In The Dark'.
As a horn player, the greatest compliment one can get is when a person comes to you and says, 'I heard this saxophone on the radio the other day and I knew it was you. I don't know the song, but I know it was you on sax, Clemons once said.
Websites had reported on June 12 that the Big Man had suffered a heart attack. He has been in treatment since then and had briefly shown signs of recovery. But his condition deteriorated in recent days.
Clemons was born on January 11, 1942 as the son of a fish market owner, and burst into the American music scene in early 70s. Family lore has it that his father presented him with an alto saxophone as a Christmas present when he was nine.
At age 18, he recorded sessions with Tyrone Ashley's Funky Music Machine, a band from Plainfield that included Ray Davis, Eddie Hazel and Billy Bass Nelson and the like. In later years, his meting and association with Bruce Springsteen became stuff celebrated in music folklore.
Recalling his association with Springsteen, Clemons wrote the following in his memoir: The first song we did was an early version of Spirit In The Night. Bruce and I looked at each other and didn't say anything, we just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other's lives. He was what I'd been searching for. In one way he was just a scrawny little kid. But he was a visionary. He wanted to follow his dream. So from then on I was part of history.
Beyond his work with the E Street Band, Clemons undertook many musical projects on his own. These included vocal duet with Jackson Browne on the hit single You're a Friend of Mine, and the 1985 hit single Freeway of Love.
Without taking any break from his illustrious music career, Clemons also found time to act in various Hollywood films and TV serials. His films included New York, New York and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Clemons was married five times and has left behind four sons.
Clarence lived a wonderful life and carried within him a love of people that made them love him, said Springsteen. In a post in Backstreet.com, Springsteen said: 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. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty 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.
The death of Clemons was mourned by his fans across the United States. People thronged outside The Stone Pony, the club where Clemons and Springsteen performed alongside other E Street band members. His official website crashed as traffic exceeded bandwidth limits.
On Twitter too fans mourned him. Death of Clarence Clemons feels like the end of joyful, huge, rock'n'roll. I hope/pray that Bruce can find a way to do those songs, wrote Stephen Collins.
Clarence Clemons was such a gentle soul, like a big flower. He will be greatly missed. R.I.P. Big Man, another post read.
In the mental calmness of a spiritual life, I have found that the answers to the whys in our lives are able to come to you. In my music I find the same thing, Clemons once said.