Clarence Clemons — the longtime saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band — died today in a hospital in Palm Beach, Florida, due to complications from a stroke he suffered last weekend, according to numerous reports. He was 69.
Clemons, who was referred to as the “Big Man” by Springsteen fans because of his formidable six-foot-four frame, was an essential driving force of the E Street Band’s sound, and one of rock’n’roll’s most legendary sidemen. He provided indelible sax solos on many of Springsteen’s biggest hits, including “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “Badlands,” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” the tale of Springsteen’s first encounter with Clemons in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in 1971. Most recently, Clemons reached a new generation of listeners when Lady Gaga asked him to collaborate on two tracks on her latest album Born This Way. (In fact, Clemons’ final live performance was with Gaga on an American Idol broadcast in May.)
The son of a Baptist minister, Clemons was born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1942. After attending Maryland State College on music and football scholarships, he pursued music full-time, and was a regular on the New Jersey Shore club circuit before joining up with Springsteen. Outside of his work with the E Street Band, Clemons performed live with the Grateful Dead and Ringo Starr, and played on pop hits by Aretha Franklin (“Freeway of Love”) and Jackson Browne (“You’re a Friend of Mine”), in addition to releasing a series of solo albums (1985’s Hero, 1989’s A Night With Mr. C, and 1995’s Peacemaker).
To remember the music of Clemons, revisit some of his live performances below.
WATCH: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (Live)”
WATCH: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “Dancing in the Dark (Live)”
WATCH: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “Rosalita (Live)”
WATCH: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “Born to Run (Live)”
WATCH: Lady Gaga, “Edge of Glory” Live on American Idol