Rest In Peace, Big Man

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will never be the same.

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.

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Edward Robinson June 24, 2011 at 04:30 PM
This story is so cool on so many levels. Not only did you get to hang out with the big man, but you also owned a 1972 Dodge Dart.
Erin Harrington June 27, 2011 at 09:04 PM
Great piece, Andrew. Bruce and the East Street Band have been my all time favorites since the 70s. I have just about every recording they ever made and was so saddened to hear last weekend that we lost the Big Man with the even bigger heart. Glad you have such an endearing memory of him to hold onto. This was a beautiful tribute. Love the Dodge Dart part, too!
Andrew J. Hyatt June 28, 2011 at 12:50 PM
Thanks guys. We miss that car and all the memories that went along with it. We have so many rare Springsteen recordings that we used to pick up at the Roosevelt Raceway Flea Market. When Bruce would call out: "Bootleggers, roll your tapes!" The bootleggers took that literally! But now I'm afraid that the E Street Band can never ever be the same.
deirddre malone July 08, 2011 at 02:02 PM
What a great memory of the Big Man. I really enjoyed reading it. You are right, Bruce and the band will never be the same. I am glad I was able to take my son to his first Bruce concert and he was able to hear the sweet sound of Clarence's sax. I don't know how I will ever see Bruce again, nobody can replace Clarence. Rest in peace, Big Man. Thanks for the great article Andrew.
Fred Grieve July 09, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Nice post Andrew. I saw Bruce and the Big Man back in 1988 at the Nassau Coliseum. Great show and the Big Man ahd lost some weight but was still the "Big Man" and played flawlessly. He will be missed. Rest in Peace Clarence.


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