The Big Man
by Suzie Conway (Communications), published June 20th 2011
Any number of hardcore Springsteen fans (many of whom are related to me) will tell you that The Boss is but one important piece of the Springsteen sound. For the whole thing to come together, the E Street Band that accompanies Bruce Springsteen is equally important. Bruce has gone back and forth throughout his career, both touring and recording intermittently with the E Street Band. But especially in recent years, they have become a nearly permanent fixture of his touring. On June 18th, the music world lost one of its most influential and prolific musicians, Clarence Clemons, who played saxophone in the E Street Band.
Often known as ‘The Big Man,’ Clemons was often associated with, but never limited to his work with The Boss. Beyond Springsteen, Clemons has supported numerous acts over the years, ranging from The Grateful Dead and Jackson Browne to Lady Gaga. His saxophone work on Gaga’s most recent album gives the record a very distinct retro feel. He even dabbled in acting on TV and in film. Clemons was never just a supporting player either. Above all else, his style was always big–a sound that was impossible to ignore.
Being from New Jersey, I of course have been to a Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band concert. I’ve seen an entire exhibit on the band at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and I’ve grown up with some sort of Springsteen song in the background of my life during my formative years. I never knew Clemons specifically, but the tracks that featured heavy doses of saxophone were always my favorites, like ‘Born to Run’ and ‘10th Avenue Freeze Out,’ which details the creation of the E Street Band.
As Springsteen put it, ‘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.’ Losing The Big Man will be a considerable blow to the music world, but he will be remembered fondly.