Saturday, June 18, 2011

The stars above just got a little brighter

Carpe diem.  Don’t miss a chance to see the ones that really matter to you.

That's the message I take from the sad news today that Clarence Clemons, sax player extraordinaire and the heart and soul of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band for forty years, has died.  Clemons, who has battled back, knee and hip problems in recent years, suffered a massive stroke last week.

Two memories to share:

In 2003 on The Rising tour I caught a show in Sacramento with my friend Dave, the guy who originally got me hooked on Springsteen, Clemons & Co.  It was a great, great show, but the absolute highlight was a spot-on performance of “Jungleland,” complete with the jazzy, lyrical, impossibly expressive sax solo that carries the ten-minute song to the summit of its epic narrative arc.  Seeing that song performed live as only Clemons, Springsteen and the E Street crew could deliver it remains one of the highlights of my three-decade-plus concert-going career.

Three years ago, I reviewed Brothers In Arms, the debut album from Temple Of Soul, a soul supergroup featuring Clemons.  As a courtesy, I sent a note to his publicist when the review was published.  A couple of days later, she replied with an e-mail that included a personal note from Clarence Clemons thanking me and praising the review. 

That note did what Clarence Clemons did his whole life: it put a smile on someone’s face.  It brought a little more sunshine into a world that sorely needs it.

Clarence Clemons got the nickname “Big Man” on account of standing 6’4” and 250 pounds.  But his personality, his warmth were always so much bigger than his physical frame could ever contain.  Wherever you may be tonight, Big Man, that corner of the universe is surely a brighter and better place for it.