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Published: 2011/06/18

Clarence Clemons: 1942-2011

Clarence Clemons—the longtime saxophonist and heart of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band—died today from complications stemming from a recent stroke. He was 69.

The saxophonist was partially paralyzed after suffering a stoke last week. Though Clemons was said to be recovering from his recent stroke, many questioned if he would ever be able to play the saxophone again.

Clemons—an architect of the Asbury Park, NJ music scene—first met Springsteen in late 1971. By 1973 he had joined the fledgling E-Street Band and appeared on their debut Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. He was also immortalized on the album art for the E-Street Band’s 1975 breakthrough Born to Run. Clemons was a key member of the group through their break-up in the late 1980s. He served as something of a second in command behind Springsteen and was often referred to as “Big Man.” Clemons was part of the E-Street Band’s late ‘90s reunion and performed with the group through their final show in late 2009. Oddly enough, that show included a complete recreation of Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.. His last performance with Springsteen was part of a concert shot in 2010 for a video to accompany to the Darkness on the Edge of Town reissue.

“Clarence lived a wonderful life,” Springsteen said in a statement. “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.”

Clemons also maintained a career apart from Springsteen that included a series of solo albums and studio recording sessions. His biggest single was the 1985 Jackson Browne collaboration “You’re a Friend of Mine.” He also recorded with everyone from Aretha Franklin to Twisted Sister to Ringo Starr and Lady Gaga.

In the jam world, the E-Street Band saxophonist sat in with the Grateful Dead near his home in California five times between December 31, 1988 and December 27, 1989. In addition, he played a few shows with the Jerry Garcia Band. More recently, he joined Furthur and their special guest Al Schnier (moe.) in Boca Raton, FL this past April.

Clemons and the E-Street Band also co-headlined Bonnaroo in 2009.

He is the second classic member of the E-Street Band to pass away, following keyboardist Danny Federici in 2008.

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