One of the best saxophone players in rock-n-roll passed away on June 18, 2011 from complications related to the stroke he suffered the week before. Clarence Clemons was 69 years old and spent 40 of those years playing alongside Bruce Springsteen in the E Street Band. Clarence brought the soul to the live performances and recordings of the E Street Band and he made them one of the most exciting live bands of the past four decades.
Clarence Clemons had a tone on the saxophone that was unique and instantly recognizable. His solo’s on songs like “Jungleland” and “Born To Run” are perfect examples of his tone, timing and phrasing. His tone had a bright, cutting sound that was just perfect for rock music. Clarence started playing the alto saxophone as a youngster and later played baritone saxophone in his school jazz band. When he made the switch to tenor saxophone Clarence finally found his voice on the instrument. His skill with the tenor saxophone was in evidence throughout his career.
I have always enjoyed Clarence’s singing voice and his duet with Jackson Browne on the 1985 hit “You’re A Friend Of Mine” is a great example of his singing. His voice was like his saxophone being bright, big and full of tone. Here’s a great clip of Clarence singing “You’re A Friend Of Mine” with Billy Preston in the Ringo Starr All-Starr Band:
Clarence will be sorely missed in the music world and his contributions will live on and on through his various recordings and videos made over the years. Known as the Big Man by Bruce and all of his fans throughout the years his legacy will be as big as his stature. Bruce Springsteen was quoted as saying “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. 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.”
Rest in peace Clarence, you will be missed and always loved.