Recently, we lost one of the great ones. On June 18th, due to complications from a stroke he suffered a week earlier, Clarence Clemons, known to his friends as “Big Man”, passed away. He was 69 yrs. old. The musician and actor was best known as the saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s ‘E Street Band’. Clarence’s contribution to the music world, as well as movies and T.V. was much more far-reaching, however.
Born on January 11, 1942, in Norfolk County, now known as Chesapeake City, Virginia. He was the son of Clarence Clemons Sr. and Thelma Clemons. Clarence’s grandfather was a Baptist preacher, so his earliest musical influence was mostly gospel. At the age of nine, the young Clarence received his first saxophone from his parents as a Christmas present. His father then paid for music Seven Cities Virginia lessons for the inspiring musician. Later, in high school, Clarence joined a jazz band. While in college, he joined his first band, The Vibratones, who played James Brown covers. The band broke up after about four years, but during his time with the band, he moved to Newark, New Jersey, where he began working as a counselor with emotionally disturbed children at the Jamesburg Training School for Boys, in 1962. He worked as a counselor at the school until 1970.
In September of ’71 he met Bruce Springsteen at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, N.J. and soon after became a regular member of Springsteen’s E Street Band. Besides his work with the E Street Band, Clarence had a lucrative solo career as well. In all, he released seven solo albums, and in 1985 had a top 20 hit single with “You’re a Friend of MIne”. He recorded the song with friend and musical colleague, Jackson Browne. He also appeared as a guest musician on Aretha Franklin’s hit, “Freeway of Love”. He also participated in the Twisted Sisters song, ‘Be Crool to Your School’ and performed live with music legends like the Grateful Dead and Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band. This diversity in musical taste is a testament to Clarence’s true love of music of all kinds. Besides music, Clarence made appearances in several movies and television series, such as, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Diff’rent Strokes and Nash Bridges.
Clarence Clemons was well known, respected, and beloved throughout the music industry. He will be missed by family, his fellow musicians, and all the people who’s lives he touched through his music. Although Clarence is no longer with us, his spirit will live on in the music he created and performed, along with the memories of friends and family who will always hold him dear. Good-bye and play on, Big Man.