The music world, pop culture, and history lost a treasure of the modern age Saturday. Clarence Clemons was 69. He was known by many names: the Master of the Universe, the Biggest Man You Have Ever Seen, the Duke of Paducah, the King of the World, but he was known to most fans as simply, the Big Man.
Clemons' saxophone blasts ended the old sounds and ushered in a new reign. He met Bruce Springsteen in 1971, in the midst of a lightning storm in Asbury Park, and he never left him. Together with the E Street Band, they created a string of albums that never strayed too far from the old nor the new. There was something very familiar about Clarence’s sax playing, and then there was something totally unique. The soul, the power, and the drama always prevailed in his playing. From “Thunder Road,” to “Night,” to “Badlands,” to “Out in the Street,” to “Bobby Jean,” to “Living in the Future,” and all the way back to his apocalyptic solo in “Jungleland,” Clarence was always a presence, just as important as Springsteen himself in the image of the band and in the sound.
When Clemons wasn’t blaring the sax, he was always pounding a tambourine or adding percussion or simply smiling. One thing was for sure about him; no matter what he was doing, he looked cooler than you doing it.
Springsteen commented late Saturday that the loss of Clarence Clemons was “immeasurable.” His full press release is as follows:
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.
Long Live the Big Man!