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E Street's Clarence Clemons Dies

Bruce Springsteen\'s good friend and long time band mate Clarence Clemons has sadly passed away aged 69

The news of his passing came via via Springsteen's official website last night.


"It is with overwhelming sadness that we inform our friends and fans that at 7:00 tonight, Saturday, June 18, our beloved friend and bandmate, Clarence Clemons passed away. The cause was complications from his stroke of last Sunday, June 12th."

Bruce Springsteen said of Clarence: "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."

Clemons started playing the saxophone when he was just nine years of age, but his place in musical history could have been so different had it not been for a simple twist of fate.

As well as being a prodigious sax player, Clemons was a talented American Football player and looked set to pursue the sport as a career after landing a trial with the Cleveland Browns, but the day before he was due to attend the trial he was involved in a car accident that ended any chance of becoming a professional sportsman.

However, fate was to intervene in the shape of Bruce Springsteen and the story of how they met in 1971 has become something of a legend. Here's how Clemons told the story to a Springsteen fansite some years ago:

"One night we [Clemons' early band Norman Seldin & The Joyful Noyze] were playing in Asbury Park. I'd heard The Bruce Springsteen Band was nearby at a club called The Student Prince and on a break between sets I walked over there. On-stage, Bruce used to tell different versions of this story but I'm a Baptist, remember, so this is the truth. A rainy, windy night it was, and when I opened the door the whole thing flew off its hinges and blew away down the street. The band were on-stage, but staring at me framed in the doorway. And maybe that did make Bruce a little nervous because I just said, "I want to play with your band," and he said, "Sure, you do anything you want." The first song we did was an early version of "Spirit In The Night". Bruce and I looked at each other and didn't say anything, we just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other's lives. He was what I'd been searching for. In one way he was just a scrawny little kid. But he was a visionary. He wanted to follow his dream. So from then on I was part of history."


Clemons was made an original member of Bruce's E Street Band and performed with The Boss for the next 40 years, remaining a vital part of the band's sound and aesthetic on every studio and live album they recorded until 'Working On A Dream' in 2009. They remained close friends throughout, even when Springsteen was pursuing a solo career having disbanded the E Street Band in the late 80s.

He released several solo albums of his own and in 1985 had a hit single with "You're a Friend of Mine", a duet with Jackson Browne. As a guest musician he also featured on Aretha Franklin's classic "Freeway of Love" and on Twisted Sister's "Be Chrool to Your Scuel" as well as performing in concert with The Grateful Dead and Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. Most recently he appeared on the latest album by Lady Gaga.

Clemons also made a number of cameo appearances in popular TV shows Diff'rent Strokes, Nash Bridges, The Simpsons and The Wire and in 2009, together with his television writer friend Don Reo he published his autobiography, Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales.

He will be sorely, sorely missed, and there will be a BIG hole onstage next to Bruce Springsteen from now on.

RIP Clarence Clemons - The Big Man, 1942 - 2011

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