Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saxobit: Clarence Clemons

Clarence Clemons, the E-Street saxophonist, has died.

Clemons is, perhaps, most widely known for having been asked if he'd been rehearsing real hard in order to secure a new saxophone from Santa; a stepping into the titular spotlight moment from his forty years playing sax for Springsteen. It's clear, though, that Springsteen's sound would have very different without Clemons - it's arguable that Clarence's saxophone was the breezy counterpoint which kept the darker side of Bruce in check. At least for long enough to satisfy radio programmers and the sort of people who buy Top 40 singles.

Springsteen was the amongst the first to post condolences:

It is with overwhelming sadness that we inform our friends and fans that at 7:00 tonight, Saturday, June 18, our beloved friend and bandmate, Clarence Clemons passed away. The cause was complications from his stroke of last Sunday, June 12th.

Bruce Springsteen said of Clarence: 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.
Given how often it appeared on tv at the time - I suspect mainly on programmes where Jonathan King was involved - I was surprised on checking to discover that Clemons' duet with Jackson Browne, You're A Friend Of Mine, never made it into the UK charts.

Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne - You by jpdc11
Clemons worked more recently with Lady GaGa; he also had a small but lucrative side career as an actor. While his musical work started out at the gritty end and ended up in GaGa pop, his acting went in the opposite direction - he kicked off with a role in sugary Diff'rent Strokes, and worked his way towards a bit in The Wire.

Clemons was hospitalised last week after a stroke; he died yesterday in Florida. He was 69.

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