When I heard that Clarence Clemons passed away, I felt like a big part of my youth passed away too. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, with Clarence on saxophone provided the sound track to my teen years. And then some. But now I'm pushing 50, and at 69 Clarence suffered a massive stroke at his home in Florida. At first there were reports that he was doing better and that he would recover. But sadly the Big Man passed away on Sunday.
His Boss, Bruce Springsteen posted this to his website:
"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."
I actually met Clarence once. He was playing with his band called "The Red Bank Rockers" at My Fathers place in Roslyn. I think it was about 1982. At the time he was in between tours with Bruce. It was a great show. My friend Danny and I were standing right in the front row. If you ever had the good fortune to see a show at My Fathers Place, you know that there was no such thing as a bad seat.
Clarence wailed through song after song and at one point, changed reeds on his sax. I picked up one that he threw down and stuffed it in my pocket. That's a cool keepsake for a 19 year old wannabe sax player. After the show was over, Danny and I walked around back to where I parked my '72 Dodge Dart. We found my car but we found something even more interesting. There was Clarence and a few of his band mates. He was sitting on the hood of his Cadillacs eating a Big Mac. Can you imagine? The Big Man sitting on the hood of his car pounding down a Big Mac. Perfect!
So of course we approached him and I asked him to sign the reed, which he did with a big smile. He asked if we were staying for the second set. (We didn't even know there was a second set!) We told him that since we left, we couldn't go back in without paying and of course we were always broke in those days. So Clarence brought us back in through the rear entrance that he and the band used. What a great guy he was to us that night. We stayed for the second set and it was even better than the first. As my friend Danny said: "He turned a cool night into an unforgettable moment in our lives." Clarence in gone, but I'll always have the memory from nearly 30 years ago of the kindly Big Man eating a Big Mac. Rest in Peace, Big Man.