Memories of Clarence Clemons
June 20th, 2011
05:21 PM ET

Memories of Clarence Clemons

On Sept. 20, 1975, I sat 10 feet from Clarence Clemons for four hours, as Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band rocked Darby Gym on the campus of Grinnell College, a small college located in an Iowa town of the same name.

The band had been booked a year earlier for what now seems a ridiculously low amount of money, the performance coming roughly a month before Springsteen simultaneously graced the covers of TIME and Newsweek magazines.

Dormitory presidents, such as myself, were warned to make sure that room doors and windows were locked, as virtually the entire student body (numbering some 1,200) was expected to be inside the aging brick gymnasium and there were concerns about outsiders flocking to the campus in hopes of getting inside (those hoards never materialized).

This was the “Born to Run” tour. Most of us were unfamiliar with Springsteen, but the fans among the students from New Jersey and New York City had heightened our anticipation – and we were rewarded.

I sat on the wooden floor of that packed gymnasium, close enough to look up and see the sweat dripping on Clemons’ face. I have memories of Clemons leaning forward, a massive presence clad in a white suit and wearing a white hat, seeming pointing his tenor sax directly into the faces of the students seated before him – flashing the smile that endeared him to audiences over the years; leaning with his back against Springsteen as he blew a solo and the two of them leaping off speakers, landing on stage at the pivotal point in one of the songs.

I've seen several more shows in the years since, collected a fistful of the band's recordings and made the Springsteen channel a favored pre-set on my car's satellite radio, but that night my junior year in college remains special, my introduction to Springsteen and music that remains one of my favorites.

In recent years, the toll the energetic performances took on Clemons was obvious, as he sometimes sat on a large throne chair until it was time to rise and let his sound roar into the night.

Springsteen would introduce Clemons last in naming the band, incredulously asking "Do I need to say his name?" to which the crowd would roar.

The loss of Clemons leaves a hole in the E Street Band that cannot be filled, no matter how talented a sax man may be recruited. He was the Big Man, Ruler of the Universe, King of the World.

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Carmen

    Adam,Now you need to convince Matt what a great album Magic was.Is it Born To Run? Hell no, but it's still prttey damn good. I loved that Magic album and it hooked me within the first couple of listens.You should follow up with your original idea at some point in the future. I often wonder how many cds on my shelf, that I put on when I first bought them and didn't think much of, would have become favorites if I'd have given them a second chance.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Macha

    J’apprecie votre site, et l'important travail que vous faites.
    Je vous presente mes meilleurs v?ux, ainsi qu'aux visiteurs de votre site, pour cette nouvelle annee. Et que 2012 vous apporte beaucoup de bonnes choses, le bonheur et la chance!

    December 31, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. jalisa

    yeah. you showed them!

    June 21, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. sarah

    Your rebuttals on my post says it all

    June 21, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • beavis and butthead

      She said butt. he he he he he he he.
      Beavis your butt needs a rebuttal. huh huh huh
      Yea Butthead, give me a rebuttal....uh... nevermind. he he he he he.
      Who is clarence clemons anyway? That guy from spruce guce?
      Yea they suck.

      June 21, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. dook of edinburgh

    Yeah! They are just doodoo eaters. Picking on us poor trolls. Befor school let out for sommer my teacher told us dont let the menies get you down. You meanies. And doodoo eaters.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  6. sarah

    To Olive the Maddcrapper and the rest of the hacks who posted such hurtful things,when you grow up and learn to listen some good music,I hope you think about the awful posts you made when a talented man has died. I believe your Karma will be your ipad will only play Justin

    June 21, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Flex

      Sarah, Let the lowly wallow! They don't respect themselves nevermind anyone else. Let them write what they want it's easy to skip over boring posts.

      June 21, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. anonymous

    Okay Olive,TheMaddCrapper ,BigRoy,and Yoland are all the same doodoo eating f*gg#t pumping a?" Wipe. STFU about Clarence he was a great musician and a great friend, what have your dumb azz ever done to help anyone?

    June 21, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. donnie

    Im not Kevin, but Dave Nelson is still lurking around making threats and harassing people.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. Moe

    If you never heard him play, consider it something you'll regret forever. His sax was crucial to Springsteen's songs. What would Jungleland be without Clarence, or Ramrod, and of course Born to Run. RIP sir.

    June 20, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mr. Ed

    RIP Clarence.. @Dave Nelson, how did that fight ended with you and Kevin? The blogs were weird this

    June 20, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dave nelson

    Ok, that was odd. When i tried to send the first comment, i was told it appeared to be a duplicate, and did not post. I changed it, sent again, and both comments popped up. I had refreshed 3 times after the first post to be sure. Funny glitch.

    June 20, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dave nelson

    Those of you who have never heard him play would do well, i think, to check out his music. He was a great artist who loved to play, and anyone who listened could feel it in their very core. Farewell, clarence, you will be remembered with love.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dave nelson

    Another great artist leaves this world. Those who, like me,were fortunate enough to have heard the man do what he loved will miss him. Clarence was an elite musician in an industry full of has beens, never weres and wannabes. And yet, he left a legacy of music that spanned the generations, and will continue to do so. Goodbye, sir. You will be truly missed.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. charlie crack

    @?....p!ss on em' dang trolls. Don't let em' bother you. If they have no respect for the blog or for grieving families, let em' be a$$e$.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. charlie crack

    RIP Clarence. Listened to you many years.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  16. alecia

    RIP Big Man. Victoria thank you for sharing your husband with us for so many years. He will be missed!

    June 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  17. ?

    Wow trolls, absolutely no respect. Shame on you~ losers.

    June 20, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Lew

    If Bruce Springsteen is the "Boss" then Clarence Clemons certainly was the Deputy Director.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Miguel

    Not too many memories of theeees griiingo.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |

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