Clarence Clemons, saxophonist with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, has died aged 69.
The musician had been in hospital since suffering a stroke at his Florida home last weekend (June 11-12) and passed away yesterday (18).
Springsteen led the tributes to his “great friend” in a statement on his website, BruceSpringsteen.net, where he spoke of his “overwhelming” loss.
Bruce Springsteen: “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.”
Springsteen’s statement continued: “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.”
Springsteen on Clemons: “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.”
Known as the ‘Big Man’, Clemons had been a key part in defining the sound of the E Street Band, contributing the iconic sax parts on hits like ‘Born To Run’ and ‘Thunder Road’. Here he is jamming with fellow sax player President Bill Clinton at the 1993 Inaugural Ball.
In addition to working with Bruce Springsteen, Clemons was an in-demand session musician, scoring hits with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Jackson Browne, as well as releasing a solo album, ‘Hero’, in 1985. Here he is performing with Liza Minnelli in 1989.
More recently he played on Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ album, performing on tracks ‘Hair’ and ‘The Edge Of Glory’. He had a starring role in the video for the latter track.
Clemons also performed as part of Lady Gaga’s band on the recent American Idol series finale.
Clemons underwent two knee replacements and back surgery last year, and as a result described his last tour as “pure hell” due to the pain.
His last performance with the E Street Band was in December 2010. He was scheduled to perform the US National Anthem at the NBA Finals Game 2 last week, but had to pull out to due to a hand injury.
Clarence Clemons pictured in 1989, during his stint with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. That same year, Bruce Springsteen broke up the E Street Band (“It was like someone had died,” recalled Clemons of the day he heard the news), though they reformed a decade later.
Owing to his popularity as a musician, Clemons was invited to appear in a number of films and TV shows – including (pictured) 1992’s Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, in which he played a wise law-maker from the future, and The Wire, in which he played a drugs counsellor, a role that recalled his own pre-fame days working with children with behavioural problems.
Virginia-born Clemons began playing saxophone at the age of nine after receiving one for Christmas.