RIP, Clarence Clemons (1942-2011)

Clarence Clemons, a saxophonist often known as "The Big Man," has passed away at age 69. The report came in from a source close to Bruce Springsteen, according to the Star-Ledger.

The longtime member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band suffered a massive stroke earlier this month and had received two brain surgeries at a South Florida hospital this past week.

Earlier in the week, fans rallied around Clemons, especially within Springsteen's community and also Lady Gaga's supporters. The latter was especially capitalized by the release of a music video for "Edge of Glory," which was one of a pair of collaborations Gaga and Clemons shared on her most recent album, Born This Way.

Updated: Bruce Springsteen has issued a statement.

It is with overwhelming sadness that we inform our friends and fans that at 7:00 tonight, Saturday, June 18, our beloved friend and bandmate, Clarence Clemons passed away. The cause was complications from his stroke of last Sunday, June 12th.

Bruce Springsteen said of Clarence: 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 forty 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.

The Rolling Stone obit details Springsteen's fateful and folkloric meeting with Clemons back in 1971:

At the time, Springsteen was a struggling musician playing the New Jersey bar circuit and Clemons was a former college football player who spent his nights playing sax in clubs along the shore. "It was raining and thundering like a motherfucker," Clemons wrote in his memoir. "When I opened the door it blew off the hinges and flew down the street... Somebody introduced me to Bruce, everybody knew everybody, and he asked me if I wanted to sit in."

More in-depth and knotty prose about Clemons can be found in Tris McCall's lengthy obit for the Star-Ledger:

He was the spirit of the E Street Band, and the oaken staff that Bruce Springsteen leaned on. There have been many charismatic figures in the band, but none had the personal gravity of Clarence Clemons, the group's Bunyanesque saxophonist.

Springsteen himself acknowledged this, always introducing Clemons last at concerts and adopting a reverential attitude uncommon among rock stars. It's Clemons' big shoulder that Springsteen was looking over lovingly on the famous cover of his "Born to Run" album. As his bandleader beamed at him, Clemons, black-hatted and bold, turned toward the camera and blew his sax.

The whole thing is a wondrous read, so definitely sit down and take a few minutes with it.

As a South Florida resident, Clemons frequently had taken part in local shows, including charity events like the yearly Clarence Clemons Classic. Clemons was set to perform for game two of the NBA Finals in Miami, but a hand injury kept him out of the gig, so his final live performance was adding his trademark sax to "Edge of Glory" on American Idol.

And if there's any doubt about how the Boss felt about Clarence Clemons, check out this introduction:

Amazing. Clarence, you will be sorely missed.


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