The late Clarence Clemons, founding sax player for Bruce Springsteen‘s E Street Band, was born 80 years ago today.
Known as “The Big Man,” Clemons joined Springsteen’s group in 1972, and his saxophone became an integral part of The Boss’ music for most of Bruce’s career, while the onstage camaraderie between the two men was a key element to the E Street Band’s marathon live shows.
It is Clemons who appears with Springsteen on the cover of Bruce’s seminal 1975 album Born to Run — one of rock’s most iconic images. Clemons’ solo on that album’s closing track “Jungleland” is generally considered one of his finest recorded moments.
Other classic Springsteen tunes that showcase Clarence’s sax prowess include “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “Badlands,” “The Promised Land” and “I’m Goin’ Down.”
In all, Clemons contributed to more than a dozen of Bruce’s studio albums.
In addition to his work with Springsteen, Clarence released several albums as a solo artists and with the backing bands The Red Bank Rockers and Temple of Soul.
In 1985, Clemons scored a top-20 solo hit with the single “You’re a Friend of Mine,” which featured him duetting with Jackson Browne and included backing vocals by Browne’s then-girlfriend, actress Daryl Hannah.
Clemons also played and recorded with many other well-known artists, including Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison, Ringo Starr and The Grateful Dead.
In one of his final collaborations, Clarence played on two tracks from Lady Gaga‘s chart-topping 2011 album Born This Way, including the top-10 hit “The Edge of Glory.”
Clemons died in June 2011 from complications of a stroke. He was 69.
The Big Man was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the E Street Band in 2014.
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