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Clarence Clemons, “The Big Man,” R.I.P.

Clarence ClemonsSaxophonist Clarence Clemons, known around the world to millions of Bruce Springsteen fans as “The Big Man” of E Street Band fame, passed away on Saturday, June 18, 2011 from complications of a stroke he had suffered earlier in the week. Clemons was 69 years old.

While not a blues artist, per se, Clemons’ influence on sax players in the blues and R&B worlds is undeniable. As a member of the E Street Band behind Springsteen, Clemons’ horn was an integral part of Springsteen’s music, adding a bit of soul and the grit of urban blues to the singer’s street-smart lyrics. The saxophone, a mainstay of 1950s-era rock ‘n’ roll, had been largely ignored by the genre until Clemons came along in the mid-1970s, adapting his King Curtis-influenced R&B sound to a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack and radically changing the role of the instrument in rock, blues, and R&B music.

It was a testament to his talents that Clemons was equally capable of enhancing just about any style of music with his brilliant instrumentation. Aside from the better than a dozen albums he recorded over 40 years with Springsteen, Clemons also played on recordings by artists as diverse as R&B legends Aretha Franklin and Gary “U.S.” Bonds; Italian blues-rock guitarist Zucchero (with whom he made five albums); rockers Ian Hunter and Little Steven; and such seemingly odd pairings as Twisted Sister and, most recently, Lady Gaga.

Clemons also enjoyed a lengthy solo career, issuing four albums and scoring a 1985 hit in his duet with Jackson Browne, “You’re A Friend Of Mine.” During the last decade, Clemons teamed up with longtime friends Narada Michael Walden and T.M. Stevens as Temple of Soul, the band releasing its Brothers In Arms album in 2008.

Issuing a statement on his website, Bruce Springsteen said, “we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 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.”

Clarence Clemons photo by Andrew H. Walker, courtesy Getty Images



June 26, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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