Clarence Clemons, 1942-2011

We were both born in Norfolk, Virginia. He showed up seven years before I did. Were we both listening to that great tenor-sax stuff on Duane Eddy’s records on WGH and WNOR? As my old MS advertising pal Jeff Russell used to say: “might could.”

Clarence Clemons validated Bruce Springsteen with a shrug of his shoulder: the beautiful Eric Meola photo that portrayed the two musicians on the BORN TO RUN cover connected the Coasters with the Boss, forever and ever. (When I was in advertising, on behalf of my Deep South agency I personally begged Mr. Meola for the right to reprint a blase atmospheric shot; had I realized he was the guy who’d shot BORN TO RUN, I might have paid him twice as much!)

Through a great cascading bit of good fortune, Linda and I got to go backstage at a New Jersey concert just after the E Street Band re-formed. I was thus able to thank Max Weinberg personally for his quote on my book MOON by Tony Fletcher. But nothing was more exciting than when my friend Sandy Choron, Springsteen’s art director at the time, brought me to the portal of the Temple of Soul. This huge grinning black guy extended his hand, and friends, it was as big as a catcher’s mitt. Sandy said, “Tom’s a big fan.” Grin goes even wider. All I could stutter out was, “I’m a *little* fan of the Big Man.” Grin bursts out as a laugh, and he slaps me on the back. An hour later, he was blowing his heart out on stage. Clarence Clemons fostered love, and he gave it out in return, even to somebody he didn’t even know. RIP, Big Man.


4 Responses to Clarence Clemons, 1942-2011

  1. bpartin says:

    Never got as close to Mr. Clemons as Tom did, but Mary Anna and I had the good luck to see him in performance with Springsteen and the Band a few years ago. A truly moving and amazing experience.

    • Tom Dupree says:

      It really hurts to consider that from now on, people who see the E Street Band will no longer have Danny Federici or the Big Man out in front of them. I’m so glad you got to see them at full strength.

  2. says:

    One of my all-time R&R experiences was when the E Street Band played the Jackson City Auditorium (now Thalia Mara Hall) and The Boss performed a perfect knee drop slide halfway across the stage, ending up at The Big Man’s feet and clenched his fists, arms extended, and shouted “I’m just a prisoner – – – of ROCK AND ROLL!”

  3. Steve Perry says:

    Hard to imagine Born to Run without the Big Man.

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