The Big Man’s Gone: RIP Clarence Clemons

Clarence Clemons – The Big Man – who played with Bruce Springsteen as part of The E Street Band died yesterday at the age of 69.

I always enjoyed Clarence, his talented saxophone playing and the charisma he brought in working with The Boss. Together, The Boss and The Big Man, made great music. They were also a case study in stage presence. Without high tech pageantry, the pair – along with the rest of the band – made for riveting viewing. This was particularly important as the years rolled by and popular music became more visually oriented.

The late, great James Brown, with his frenetic energy, was known as the hardest working man in show business. Clarence should be remembered as the hardest working saxophone player in music, energetic sounds of soulful might emanating from his sax. And his towering musical skills were matched perfectly by his towering size.

A virtuoso musician the size of a lineman, Clarence, in fact, played college football and was even looked at by the pros. An accident precluded him from going in that direction. The gridiron’s loss was music’s gain.

Mr. Clemons worked with Mr. Springsteen for almost 40 years. Highly successful bands often collapse under their own weight, individual egos tugging apart group unity. Clarence, as an integrant in The E Street Band, was a musician of the highest order; a man who put his art first and used his ego to fuel it, not simply to draw attention to himself. Then again, he didn’t have to. His presence was always felt.

Clarence Clemons will long be remembered by Springsteen fans as a saxophone playing marvel, a musical Rock of Gibraltar, providing an anchor to The Boss’s belting.

I always saw Clarence as a gentle musical enforcer. His soul and stability grooved perfectly with the working man ethos of Bruce. The Boss and The Big Man were a pairing that will not soon be forgotten.

A quick listen to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run is sure to remind anyone of the brilliance saxophone playing of The Big Man.

RIP Clarence Clemons. You will be missed. A lot.

Image: Simon Howden /

You can reach me with your questions and comments at Like today’s column? Check back frequently.