Monday, June 20, 2011

Paradise by the C

An era ended in a Florida hospital room on Saturday.  Clarence Clemons - "the Big Man" - died at age sixty-nine.  In his memoir published in 2009, Clarence had a single page right up front entitled, "From the Massive Desk of Clarence Clemons".  In that section he wrote about his relationship with Bruce.  In pertinent part, he wrote that "I wanted to give the reader a glimpse into the personal and private side of our relationship without getting too personal and private.  I hope we accomplished that.  My heart will always be filled with gratitude to Bruce for one simple reason:  without Scooter, there is no Big Man."   

On Saturday as the Big Man was living the final hours of his glorious life there with him - as he always seemed to be - was Springsteen.  According to reports published on the Backstreets site, Bruce and his two sons spent the day in Clarence's room with him playing music for him and keeping him company.  Having spent the better part of the past forty years entering and exiting stages together it strikes me as wholly appropriate that as the Big Man exited the stage one final time, there was Scooter right there with him.  Same as always.  And how it shall never be again. 

I have been a fan of Bruce Springsteen's music for as long as I can remember - a debt owed to my brother Bill that I shall never be able to repay.  It is impossible - in my humble opinion - to be a Springsteen fan and not love Clarence Clemons.  The two were - and shall forever be - inextricably linked to one another.  It has been my great pleasure to see Springsteen perform live too many times to count.  While not every one of those performances included the E Street Band, the overwhelming majority of them did.....including on Springsteen's 36th birthday in September 1985 at Mile High Stadium in Denver, a couple of particularly glorious nights on the Reunion tour in the Summer of 1999 where I passed the gift of the music I had received from Bill along to my son.  It is a gift Rob has carried with him happily since - including over seven of the ten nights at Giants Stadium during what we refer to still as the "Summer of Bruce" in 2003 as well as two of the final three nights of The Rising tour at Shea Stadium during October's first weekend.....well after the Mets had finished using the joint for the season. 

Yesterday morning, while immersing myself in a day spent listening to the music I love so much while mourning the passing of a man I met only once but felt as if I knew very, very well, I thought of the final time I saw Bruce and the E Street Band play live.  My good friend Dave Puteska and I sat way upstairs at Madison Square Garden on a Saturday night in November 2009.  It was the night that the band played "The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle" in its entirety for what was advertised as the first time ever.  Once upon a time, when CDs were called albums, WIESS had one of rock and roll's truly great album sides:  Rosalita flanked by Incident on 57th Street on one side and New York City Serenade on the other.  On that November evening slightly less than two years ago, the band tore through each of them with passion and ferocity.  It was a tremendous night of music.  Simply tremendous.  I know not whether Dave thought leaving the Garden that evening we might have seen Clarence playing for the last time.  I most certainly did not.  Life too often does not turn out the way we hope I suppose.

On his website, Bruce Springsteen said of Clarence:

Clarence lived a wonderful life. 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.

And in the heart of this fan and of every fan of their music until each of us reaches our own end.  And no worries Big Man, your #1 fan Liv took to heart what you told her when she met you during your book signing back in October 2009.  She never plays only the half notes.

Rest in Peace, Big Man



Anonymous said...

God Bless Clarence Clemons! My sons as well have taken E Street's music to heart and I look to them, your son Rob, and all the "young" fans to keep the music and Clarence, Garry, Bruce, and the rest of the band alive when we can't anymore.

Adam Kenny said...

Thank you for the nice words. I read your post. Simply beautiful sentiment beautifully written.