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E Street Sax Man Clarence Clemons aka “The Big Man” heads off stage for good

June 19, 2011
Tonight, as we waited for X to come at at the Johnny Cash music festival at the Ventura Fairgrounds, I noticed a post on Facebook: RIP Clarence Clemons.Alarmed, I looked for more info but I knew what had happened: he’d been in the hospital following a stroke and he’d taken a turn for the worse. There had been mumblings of paralysis on various social media channels and Bruce Springsteen sent out a call for prayers for the Big Man who he had shared a stage with since the early 70s–40 some years.

As we stood holding each other, tears in our eyes, I wondered what to say to my husband who has seen over 100 Bruce Springsteen shows, and most of them with the E Street Band, at least 80 shows with Clarence Clemons, and I wondered what to write about here. The thought crossed my mind: our friend Ron Wells will write something worthy of the occasion.

When we came home, we toasted Clarence Clemons, his life, his work his gifts. We read accounts online as they turned up and watched videos.

About midnight, Ron Wells sent out the following email:

“When a great man dies, for years the light he leaves behind him, lies on the paths of men.”—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Maybe,’ I figgered, ‘maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe that’s the Holy Spirit-the human sperit-the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’ Now I sat there thinkin’ it, an’ all of a suddent-I knew it. I knew it so deep down that it was true, and I still know it.”—John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath

Did you hear it, when sparks flew on E Street that first night Bruce Springsteen touched that hand, touched that heart, touched that mighty soul of Clarence Clemons? The world had never seen nor heard anything like it, nor will it ever be repeated. (Photo from Backstreets).

And how was it for all of us the first time we saw that big man smile and then blow that saxophone so joyously that the earth trembled, the angels smiled, and we stood silently listening as our lives quietly changed forever? Did you hear it then as Bruce glanced over to his right and grinned so broadly?

How lucky we were to be on this Earth at this moment in time, to have been in his presence and watch a love so profound that it carried us on each and every note of his horn, on waves cascading unto the heavens above.

Even as your teardrops fell, did you hear it then? Look around and listen. Do you not see the light he has left to guide us on our paths? Even in the darkness, there is the paradise he always pointed to. The light so bright, so shimmering, so full of all  those majestic years reaching out and touching us with the splendrous music of wonder.

The holy spirit, the human spirit, don’t you know they’re all one? Clarence knew. Were you listening all those nights he played on stages around the world? Was there ever a time he wasn’t a part of us? Was there ever a time we were not part of him?

Did you hear it when Bruce told us that the Big Man was the King of the World, the Master of the Universe? Why would you doubt it now? The universe embraced Clarence and added his peace, his energy, and his love to light up the darkness and send stars hurtling through the night.

In the silence that is now amongst us, take a moment and listen once more.Now do you hear it? Do you hear that sound? That deep rumble of the first notes of that huge saxophone. Keep listening for that music is starting to cascade as it always has when Clarence plays. Listen very closely.
Then you must know that the sound you hear, that glorious saxophone sound that only the Big Man could play, is coming from deep within your own heart. It’s his gift to you. It’s his way of saying he will never leave you, and you are a part of him.
His joy and smile, his saxophone playing, will always light your path, for he is within you. Living on in your heart and soul. And that is the sound you hear, the sound you have always heard, the glory that was, that is, Clarence Clemons: An eternal heart beating to a saxophone playing within all of us.
Thank you, Clarence. Goodnight, and Rest in Peace, my friend.
Thanks to Ron Wells for writing this post about Clarence Anicholas Clemons, Jr.  who was born January 11, 1942 –the day I was born, 20 years later–and who died Saturday – June 18, 2011 at the age of 69 well lived, well loved years.
Read the Backstreets account and see more photos.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2011 7:35 pm

    Great post Art Predator. Well written.
    See you at WBC2011?

  2. June 20, 2011 12:04 am

    Thanks Mari.

    No, not planning on going to WBC11 in Virginia; instead, I’m traveling northwest and noCal wine country researching a book with blog posts along the way!

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