Sunday, June 19, 2011


I was waiting for Eddie Vedder to take the stage tonight when I heard the awful news that Clarence Clemons passed away.  It wasn't a huge surprise: he had a stroke last weekend. But still, really, really sad news.

I don't know what makes a good sax player from a technical standpoint. But I do know that his playing added something to Bruce Springsteen's music that added even more heart, soul and excitement. Listen to "Jungleland," "Night," "Secret Garden," "Pink Cadillac." Of course "Tenth Avenue Freezeout."

Clarence tried lots of other stuff outside of E Street: his solo career, playing with other people, smooth jazz, acting, writing.  I think he'd admit that things never clicked for him more than when he was onstage with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. I remember seeing the reunion tour in 1999, it was just electric.  Seeing those guys onstage together, it was larger than life.

I remember I interviewed Clarence during the long years between the breakup and the reunion.  I think it was around the time of Bruce's first solo acoustic tour for The Ghost Of Tom Joad. I told him that my prediction was, after that tour, he would reunite with The E Street Band. That made him perk up, and he asked me why I thought that.  I said that I thought that he just wanted to try playing with other people (the band he used in the mid-'90s), and, by appearances, he seemed to have been wanting to do a solo acoustic thing for a long time, and now he'd done that also.  I knew he'd go back to rock and roll, I doubted he would reassemble his '90s band, and I didn't think he'd put together a new rock band. So, my feeling was, his next project would be The E Street Band. That seemed to make The Big Man happy and he thanked me for sharing my theory.  I'm glad I was right and I'm glad I had that bit of time with the man.

It's weird that his last performance was playing sax for Lady Gaga on American Idol, but life is weird sometimes.  The fact that he played with Gaga turned a new generation on to his talents and he was probably grateful for that.

I wonder if Bruce can possibly have the E Street Band go on without Clarence. I guess it would be a shame if those guys never played together again, on the other hand, how do you replace a guy like that.  My suggestion: use an entire horn section, but retire "Jungleland" and "Freeze-out."

1 comment:

The Kid In The Front Row said...

This is really beautifully written; I read it through my dashboard just as I was preparing to write about the big man.

A big loss.

Thanks for writing this. I'll follow suit shortly.