Sunday, June 19, 2011

regarding Clarence Clemons.

E Street Band founder/saxophonist/percussionist/singer Clarence “Big Man” Clemons passed died Sat. June 18 at the age of 69. For fans of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, the loss is incredible. While the group’s sound has noticeably changed since organist/accordionist Danny Federici died in 2008 from melanoma, Clemons’ death marks a significant change in the line-up. The E Street Band has soldiered on since Federici. But to replace Clemons or drop his most iconic songs from the band’s live show would both be disastrous; something significant has been lost.

Born in Virginia in 1942, Clemons took up saxophone at the age of 9. While he came from a religious/soul musical background, Clemons gravitated towards rock ‘n’ roll. After jamming with Clemons and his band Joyful Noyze a few times, Springsteen asked the future “Big Man” to play on studio debut, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.. The partnership would prove fruitful for both, as Clemons helped provide the musical grandiosity needed to supplement Springsteen’s increasingly grand lyrical visions. The duo’s most perfect compromise is arguably the third E Street record, Born to Run.

Born to Run
, above all other E Street albums, is defined by Clemons’ sax. It pushes the orchestral moves of “Thunder Road” to a higher degree. It makes “Born to Run” rock harder. And it certainly lends “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” some soul. But by far the biggest contribution was album closer “Jungleland.” Clemons propels the song before ripping off a massive, emotional solo that shifts the song’s jubilant opening to its sad, sad ending. From start to finish, Clemons shaped Born to Run.

Clemons arguably shaped Run’s follow-up, Darkness on the Edge of Town, just as much, even though his sax presence is scant. It was decided that in order to progress from Run, and to lend it a darker atmosphere, Clemons needed to play sparingly. Simply put, when his few appearances are reassuring, a reminder that life just might be alright.

Clemons remained with the E Street Band through the ’80s and returned for their triumphant ’00s reunion, although he also found success outside of the band. He scored a hilariously ’80s pop hit, “You’re a Friend of Mine,” with Jackson Browne. He also appeared on the critically acclaimed drama The Wire. His most recent studio performance was on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. That Born This Way would become his last artistic statement released in Clemons’ lifetime is weird but fitting. The guy liked to go big, something Gaga certainly craves herself.

Still, Clemons’ legacy is unquestionably tied to Springsteen. The two wrote a lot of really good songs together. Here are a few of them:

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