Clarence Clemons Dies from Complications of StrokePosted: June 18, 2011
From The New York Times:
Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, whose jovial onstage manner, soul-rooted style and brotherly relationship with Mr. Springsteen made him one of rock’s most beloved sidemen, died Saturday at a hospital in Palm Beach, Fla. He was 69.
The cause was complications from a stroke, which he suffered last Sunday, said a spokeswoman for Mr. Springsteen….
Clarence Anicholas Clemons was born on Jan. 11, 1942, in Norfolk, Va. His father owned a fish market and his grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher, and although he grew up surrounded by gospel music, the young Mr. Clemons was captivated by rock ’n’ roll. He was given an alto saxophone at age 9 as a Christmas gift; later, following the influence of King Curtis — whose many credits include the jaunty sax part on the Coasters’ 1958 hit “Yakety Yak” — he switched to the tenor.
“I grew up with a very religious background,” he once said in an interview. “I got into the soul music, but I wanted to rock. I was a rocker. I was a born rock ’n’ roll sax player.”
Mr. Clemons was also a gifted athlete, and he attended Maryland State College (now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore) on a scholarship for football and music. He tried out for the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns, but a knee injury ended his hopes for a football career.
Rolling Stone summarizes the apocryphal story of the night Clemons and Springsteen met and began to play music together.
So much has been said and written about the stormy night in Asbury Park in 1971 when Clemons met Springsteen that it’s hard to separate fact from myth. At the time, Springsteen was a struggling musician playing the New Jersey bar circuit and Clemons was a former college football player who spent his nights playing sax in clubs along the shore. “It was raining and thundering like a motherfucker,” Clemons wrote in his memoir. “When I opened the door it blew off the hinges and flew down the street . . . Somebody introduced me to Bruce, everybody knew everybody, and he asked me if I wanted to sit in.”
Clemons soon became part of Springsteen’s backing band (not yet known as the E Street Band), and when Bruce recorded his debut LP Greetings From Asbury Park in the summer of 1972, Clemons was brought in for the sessions. Over the next two decades, Clemons became the most recognizable member of the E Street Band – for his massive size, equally huge personality and his onstage role as Springsteen’s foil.
May Clemons continue to make music and tell tall tales in Rock’n’Roll Heaven.