E Street Band Saxophonist Clarence Clemons Dead at 69


SINGER ISLAND, Fla. – Saxophonist Clarence Clemons, a prominent member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, died from complications caused by a stroke a week earlier. He was 69.

Clemons died Saturday night after being hospitalized about a week ago following a stroke at his home in Singer Island, Fla.

Known as the `Big Man’ for his imposing 6-foot-5-inch, 270-plus pound frame, Clemons had been in serious but stable condition after suffering a stroke at his Florida home on June 12.

Bruce Springsteen, who remained optimistic about Clemons’ recovery, acknowledged the death of his long time friend and band mate on 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 40 years.”

Clemons’ musical passion began at age nine when his father gave him an alto sax as a Christmas present.

“Nobody played instruments in my family. My father got that bug and said he wants his son to play saxophone. I wanted an electric train for Christmas, but he got me a saxophone. I flipped out,” he said in a 1989 interview with the Associated Press.

After switching to tenor sax in high school, Clemons went on to attend Maryland State College on a football and music scholarship.  A car crash would end Clemons’ hope for NFL glory and fulfill his destiny as a legendary musician.

In a recent interview, Clemons’ recalled the day he met and began collaborating with Bruce Springsteen.

One night I was playing in Asbury Park with Norman Seldin & The Joyful Noyze. I’d heard The Bruce Springsteen Band was nearby at a club called The Student Prince and on a break between sets I walked over there. On-stage, Bruce used to tell different versions of this story, but I’m a Baptist, remember, so this is the truth. A rainy, windy night it was, and when I opened the door the whole thing flew off its hinges and blew away down the street. The band was on-stage, but staring at me framed in the doorway. And maybe that did make Bruce a little nervous because I just said, “I want to play with your band,” and he said, “Sure, you do anything you want.” The first song we did was an early version of “Spirit In The Night”. Bruce and I looked at each other and didn’t say anything. We just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other’s lives. He was what I’d been searching for. In one way, he was just a scrawny little kid. However, he was a visionary. He wanted to follow his dream. So from then on I was part of history.

Friends and fans have left flowers and letters of condolences outside the legendary rock club where Springsteen and Clemons formed their rock n roll union four decades earlier.

In recent years Clemons was sidelined because of health concerns. In January 2010, he endured major spinal surgery and, at the 2009 Super Bowl, Clemons rose from a wheelchair to perform with Springsteen after double knee replacement surgery.

Clemons said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press then that he was winning his battles — including severe, chronic pain and post-surgical depression. His sense of humor helped.

“Of all the surgeries I’ve had, there’s not much left to operate on. I am totally bionic,” he said.

“God will give you no more than you can handle,” he said in the interview. “This is all a test to see if you are really ready for the good things that are going to come in your life. All this pain is going to come back and make me stronger.”

Funeral arrangements for the ‘Big Man’ have not been announced, it’s widely speculated that he will be laid to rest near his home in Florida, although not confirmed.

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