RIP: Clarence Clemons

Posted June 19, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in News

Legendary sax player and E Street member dies from stroke complications

Clarence Clemons, longtime saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, passed away on Saturday from complications resulting from a stroke he suffered a week ago at the age of 69.

His health has been an issue over the last couple of years, after recovering from double knee surgery, but he showed improvements and seemed to be rebounding. Even after he suffered the stroke at his Florida home, initial signs “seemed to be encouraging,” according to Springsteen.

After joining Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1970, Clemons has been instrumental in carving out iconic cuts for the rock star. Best remembered for posing with The Boss on the album cover of the 1975 classic Born To Run. Songs like “Born to Run,” “Jungleland” and “Fifth Avenue Freeze-Out” paved the way for Springsteen’s new”wall of sound” formula and pushed Springsteen to super-stardom. Clemons has been recording with the E Street Band since 1972.

Last month, Clemons performed alongside Lady Gaga on the season finale of American Idol. His musicianship can also be heard on several tracks on Gaga’s recent album release Born This Way, including the Top 10 hit “The Edge of Glory.” Gaga recently revealed her new music video for “The Edge of Glory,” which features the late saxophonist in the music video.

In 1985, Clemons had his own shot at glory after recording a Top 20 hit with “You’re  a Friend of Mine” with Jackson Browne. Also that year, he made an appearance on Aretha Franklin’s 1985 hit “Freeway of Love,” playing the iconic sax solo.

Although Clemons enjoyed making strides in acting and as a solo artist, he is best remembered for his work with Springsteen. And he never had any regrets about it. “It’s fine for me to be known as part of the E Street Band,” he told the New York Daily News. “We all wonder what we’re here to do. Something got me into a band with Bruce. It’s where I belong.”

Prior to his death, Springsteen released a word of encouragement and support to Clemons’ fans, reading:

“By now, many of you have heard that our beloved comrade and sax player Clarence Clemons has suffered a serious stroke. While all initial signs are encouraging, Clarence will need much care and support to achieve his potential once again. He has his wonderfully supportive wife, Victoria, excellent doctors and healthcare professionals and is surrounded by friends and family.”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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