It's the saddest of Saturday nights in Springsteenland. Clarence Clemons, the 69 year old saxophonist who was one of the most distinctive and identifiable sidemen in rock and roll history, died of complications from a stroke he suffered last weekend at his home in Florida. Clemons was an original member of the E Street Band, and his full force horn lines were a crucial part of the signature Springsteen sound, as they drove majestic songs like "Thunder Road" and "Jungleland" to their cathartic conclusions.
He played on two songs on Lady Gaga's album Born This Way, and last was on the road with Springsteen on an E Street Band tour that wrapped up in 2009 and incuded six shows at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. On stage, Clemons was always introduced last as a sign of respect, and his entry into the band was mythologized in many a theatrical Springsteen tall tale, as well as in "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out," in which "the change was made uptown, and the Big Man joined the band / From the coast line to the city, all the little pretties raised their hands." The Born To Run album cover captures the Springsteen-Clemons relationship.
On his web site, Springsteen issued this statement, seeming to answer the question of whether the E Street Band will somehow go on without Clemons in the last line: "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."