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Remembering Springsteen’s Saxman, Clarence Clemons

We’re talking about the great sax man, the great side man Clarence Clemons — the soul of the E Street Band.

What made Bruce Springsteen a mega-star?

You could say it was his working class poetry. His verve. You could say it was Clarence Clemons.

Clemons was The Big Man on saxophone at Springsteen’s side. The joyful sideman whose solos brought on the soul in “Jungleland” and “Born to Run” and “Thunder Road” and on and on.

He was “myth and light” Springsteen said. A star all his own.

Now, he’s dead at 69.

This hour On Point: we’re listening back to Clarence Clemons, the big man.

- Tom Ashbrook


Tim Riley, music critic and assistant professor at Emerson College. He’s editor of the “Riley Rock Index” website. His new book on John Lennon — titled “Lennon” — will be out this fall.

Robert Santelli, blue and rock historian and executive director of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. He’s author of “Greetings from E Street: The Story of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band,” and he’s been following Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band since the group’s earliest days in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

T.M. Stevens, bass guitarist. Played with Clarence Clemons’ band Temple of Soul. Currently touring with Bootsy Collins and the Funk Unity Band.


Here’s a playlist of Clemons music.

Here’s Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performing at Hard Rock Calling 2009 in London:

See Clemons here jamming with the Grateful Dead

Here’s another E Street Band classic. “Badlands.”

“Born To Run.” ‘Nuff said.

Clemons jams with Jackson Browne for “You’re A Friend Of Mine.”

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  • Roger Runnalls – Wantage, NJ

    The human-pig hybrid, Governor Chris Christie of NJ, is flying flags at half-mast in honor of Clemons’ passing.  What’s next, a state holiday?  Grow up pig-boy and put your attention on what NJ really needs instead of your childhood infatuations (and beating up on teachers and state workers).

  • DJ

    The Flea Market link plays the Paul Gilding show and not the Flea Market Show…

  • Soli

    Saturday night I saw Eddie Vedder play the Bushnell in Hartford. As he was introducing the song Betterman he was talking about Clemens, dedicating the song to him as he believed the man to be on the mend. One of Ed’s tour people ran out then, whispered something which shook him up and he wiped tears from his eyes. Toward the end of the song he was singing “can’t find a bigger man” instead of the usual lyrics.
    When I left the venue and checked Twitter I saw a few messages about his death and figured that’s what Ed had been told.

  • Renee

    Thank you so much for doing this show. I’m grateful to have seen Clarence and the band many times live in the past few years and even when he was clearly struggling physically on stage he always managed to get the biggest applause from the crowd and bring everyone together with his music, personality and pure presence. He will be missed. 

  • Pingback: POINT BLANK » Blog Archive » Clarence Clemons: en la prensa y en la red / in the press & internet

  • MK

    If you grew up on the Jersey shore around the ’70s and ’80s, you wouldn’t see Bruce and Clarence as black and white. It was a post-’60s time when the talk evolved into practice, and young people chose friends and acquaintances based on common experiences, who they were as people, not what they looked like or where they came from. I look at my middle-aged Facebook friends and am proud to see friendships that reflected what Bruce and Clarence themselves enjoyed, and what they wrote and sang about without painting with traditional colors. RIP Clarence.

  • Tinman

    Such a loss… but oh what he gave us… If you’ve never been to a Springsteen show its hard to relate to the almost ‘religious’ experience one would get along with twenty-some-thousand other people during the Jungleland solo.  If you didn’t have goose pimples all over your body, you didn’t have a pulse!!

    • Nevergotwhatallthefusswasabout

      Guess I don’t have a pulse.

  • Guest

    Clarence was called home. He’s jamming now with the Angel Gabriel, two fine horn blowers now at the pearly gates.

  • Jemimah

    I. too, feel so lucky to have seen Bruce, Clarence and the E Street Band a number of times. My most memorable was at the Agora in Cleveland…probably 35 years ago.  The club was tiny and the stage was only about 4 feet high.  My sister and I were standing in the front row.  What a show!  The energy of the whole band is extraordinary, but I can’t imagine them without Clarence.  It just seems impossible that such a force of joy and energy has now been quieted.

  • Donna

    You just can’t imagine the band without Clarence…in many ways I feel like it’s the end of an era. I feel so lucky to have seen them so many times, and so sad it won’t happen again.

  • http://www.perfectbokehphotography.com/ Paul Marotta

    As a former musician and as a national publicist, I’ve worked with and promoted a lot of great sax men…Sonny Rollins, Vonski, Donald Harrison and others…I think the folks on the show are exactly right…the best instrumentalists make their instruments sound like a voice, and the best singers make their voices sound like an instrument…and when you have both paired together like this in one band, agreed, magic!

    Paul Marotta

  • Gretchen

    Tom, what a great program you’ve put together, really showcasing all of Clarence’s gifts! I discovered the E Street Band late in life, but my first concert at Giants Stadium in 2003 made me a fan for life. People asked me what the concert was like and I told them to imagine the best party they’d ever been to combined with the deepest spiritual experience they’d ever had. Clarence was such a presence — what a joyful being!! We miss him.

  • AustinOrsz

    great hour. as a 19 year old i have seen bruce and the band 19 times. everytime the concert started for me is when CC blew that sax. he was the real deal, and i will never forget him. the band will never be the same, ever.

  • Ashleigh Witt

    My father has been a fan of Springsteen and Clarence since the 70s. I have literally grown up listening to the music and for a long time the music was the only thing my father and I had in common. Saturday night I watched a close friend get married and her father and daughter dance was extremely emotional for me. I joked to me]y boyfriend that my father daughter dance would be “Dancing in the Dark.” Less than an hour later I read the news of Clarence’s passing on Twitter. I thank you for this show. I will forever regret that I missed seeing him last year in SC. And when I dance with my father at my wedding, it will be an E Street Band jam session. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/MusicPub Lawrence Kirsch

    E Street Nation Remembers Clarence Clemons: http://www.thelightinDarkness.com/news/

  • Lynn K

    Thank you so much for this show. I, like so many other fans, have seen Bruce and Clarence so many times that I’ve lost count. I cannot imagine seeing Bruce or the E Street Band without Clarence. Clarence’s sax is what gave Bruce and the E Street Band the sound that they are known for. It is impossible for me to put into words how I feel about Clarence’s passing. I know, however, that Bruce will find exactly the right words to express how we all feel. So, for now we wait.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/roy.cuellar Roy Cuellar

    Rock is dying a very slow death. There is still popular music that is
    influenced by Rock n’ Roll but as these “oldsters” peel away so will the
    art form in it’s original incarnation. In the future there will be
    influence and revival but nothing ever quite so original … Like
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig Van Beethoven people can play thier
    music but cannot really be them … they were a special breed that came
    at a special time. This kind of creativity skips generations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roy.cuellar Roy Cuellar

    RIP Big Man.

  • AJ

    The Big Man has passed.  Long live The Big Man!  Your program brought tears to my eyes.  Today I went to YouTube and watched a B&W film from ’78.  The tune was “Jungleland.”  I wept.  By the way, I am a Vietnam veteran, and I think you know how most of us honor and love Bruce for standing early on as witness to our truth.  As you pointed out with such dignity, there would be no Bruce without The Big Man.  Thank you!

  • Pingback: Remembering the Big Man… « CloudKid Blog

  • Anonymous

    Big man – big smile.  Sorry to see you go.  Best, Clarence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1544820632 Dean Boulding

    RIP Big Man

  • Pingback: Financings of the Fortnight Can’t Escape Velocity | BiotechLive.com

  • Swags

    Thanks for airing this!!!

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