Clarence Clemons, (January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011), rock saxophonist.

Clarence Clemons, “The Big Man,” was one of the founding members of Bruce Springsteen’s “E Street Band”. He was born in Virginia and took up the saxophone at the age of nine, starting on alto and later switching to baritone. After hearing the music of King Curtis, he started playing tenor sax with his characteristic growling tone. He attended Maryland State College on a dual music and football scholarship. Although he attracted interest from the NFL, a car accident ended his days playing football.

After meeting Bruce Springsteen at a club in New Jersey, the two formed a deep friendship and musical partnership that lasted for four decades. Clemons’ trademark sound and joyful stage presence helped define the band and propel it to the height of fame and popularity, especially on such hits as Born To Run,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and I’m Going Down“, as well as a memorable appearance at the 2009 Super Bowl.

Apart from his work with Springsteen, he provided the sax solo on Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love” and performed and recorded with the Grateful Dead, Ringo Starr, Luther Vandross, Jackson Browne, Joe Cocker, Roy Orbison, and Lady Gaga. He also released 8 albums as a leader. In addition, he had various cameo appearances in films and tv shows, including Martin Scoresese’s New York, New York, as well as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Fatal Instinct, The Blues Brothers 2000, Diff’rent Strokes, The Simpsons, and The Wire. He also published his autobiography, Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales in 2009.

Clemons with Springsteen

On June 12, Clemons suffered a stroke and died from complications on June 18. On his website, Bruce Springsteen posted this about his longtime friend:

“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.”

Visit his official website: www.clarenceclemons.com

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