The E Street Band has always been greater than the sum of its parts. That is what makes any band special. These guys have worked their asses off for the past forty years to become the world's greatest live act. But Clarence Clemons has always been the one that stood out. The heart and soul on E Street. He's a larger-than-life character, like a superhero from another time and space coming to our world to save our souls, and by that I'm referring to everytime he blows his horn onstage, the most joyful noise you'll ever hear. I vividly remember my first Springsteen show at Hyde Park, the moment when Clarence started his sax solo during the second song, Badlands. A force of nature, and shit, what huge energy! The crowd went absolutely wild for him.
And then of course Jungleland towards the end of the show, as dusk turned into night. It was as if something invisible and unexplainable came down from the heavens and cleansed everyone of their sins. Time seemed to stand still during that solo. C was trying to say to us that everything was gonna be alright. And not forgetting the version from Live In New York City, that close-up shot of him moments before he belts out the solo, so intense and focused, ready to do God's work. Priceless.
Aside from being one bad motherfucker, the camaraderie Clarence and Bruce shares onstage is the most unique in live music performance. And offstage, their close bond and friendship is forever immortalized on the cover of Born To Run; seriously, I've never seen a cover photo so genuine before. My all-time favorite 'Scooter & Big Man' moment was when they locked lips at the end of Thunder Road during the Born In The U.S.A. tour. Name me two other men who got the balls to do this in front of thousands. I think Bruce best explains their relationship in his 1999 Rock & Roll Hall Fame induction speech:
"Clarence Clemons. That's right. You want to be like but you can't, you know. The night I met Clarence, he got up on stage and a sound came out of his horn that seemed to rattle the glasses behind the bar, and threatened to blow out the back wall. The door literally blew off the club in a storm that night, and I knew I'd found my sax player. But there was something else, something -- something happened when we stood side by side. Some ... some ... some energy, some unspoken story. For 15 years Clarence has been a source of myth and light and enormous strength for me on stage. He has filled my heart so many night -- so many nights -- and I love it when he wraps me in those arms at the end of the night. That night we first stood together, I looked over at C and it looked like his head reached into the clouds. And I felt like a mere mortal scurrying upon the earth, you know. But he always lifted me up. Way, way, way up. Together we told a story of the possibilities of friendship, a story older than the ones that I was writing and a story I could never have told without him at my side. I want to thank you, Big Man, and I love you so much".
I can't imagine the E Street Band without the Big Man, and for that matter I can't imagine life without Bruce and the E Street Band. Eventually we have to face the fact that the band will one day cease to exist. But for now, let's stay positive and keep good thoughts and continue to pray for C.