Clarence Clemons, 1942-2011

“Bruce Springsteen, like Sly Stone but for so much longer, dared to present America in the 1970s and beyond through the faces of a band that actually looked like America: people of color, ethnic, rough around the edges, and always ready to bust the chops of self-righteousness with a great sense of humor. Kissing the Boss on the lips or embracing him in a giant bear hug at a peak moment in almost every show, Clemons was, in Springsteen’s words, ‘King of the World, Master of the Universe, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall refineries in a single bound; it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the Big Man.'”
Springsteen scholar and Awl pal Stephen Hazan Arnoff wrote a nice memorial piece about the great E-Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who you probably heard died Saturday after suffering a stroke last week. This version of “Spirit In the Night,” from 1973, gives a good indication of how central his playing was to Springsteen’s sound. “With Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music,” said Springsteen in a statement. “His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”