Clarence Clemons

  • Share
  • Read Later

They called him the Big Man. For four decades, the 6 ft. 4 in. (193 cm) tenor saxophonist, who died June 18 at 69, played at the right hand of the Boss. His horn riffs were not the throwaways so often heard in rock songs--they were the core of many E Street Band classics, from "Thunder Road" to "Rosalita." Clemons and Bruce Springsteen worked on the nearly three-minute sax part in "Jungleland" for more than 16 hours.

Their first meeting serves as the band's origin myth. On a stormy night in 1971, Clemons entered a bar in Asbury Park where Springsteen was playing. A gust of wind blew the door from its hinges, and Clemons asked if he could join the set. For the next 30 or so years, the two were inseparable onstage, dancing, spinning, jumping, bumping each other. In recent years, his knees battered from years of football and decades of arena gigs, Clemons spent much of his time on a stool. But when the Big Man stood up to blast one of his solos, the audience knew that was their cue to go wild.