Legendary musician Clarence Clemons died Saturday due to complications from a stroke a week earlier. Clemons was 69 years old.
Clemons was best-known for his work as saxophonist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Bruce Springsteen made the story of his and Clemons’ first meeting, in a music club where Springsteen’s band was playing in 1971, into the stuff of myth. Springsteen often told of that event, “With a lightning storm raging outside, the Big Man tore the door off an Asbury Park club, strode onstage, and made magic.”
Clemons’ version of his first meeting with Springsteen differed only slightly:
One night we were playing in Asbury Park. I’d heard The Bruce Springsteen Band was nearby at a club called The Student Prince and on a break between sets I walked over there. Onstage, Bruce used to tell different versions of this story, but I’m a Baptist, remember, so this is the truth.
A rainy, windy night it was, and when I opened the door the whole thing flew off its hinges and blew away down the street. The band were onstage …staring at me framed in the doorway. And maybe that did make Bruce a little nervous because I just said, “I want to play with your band,” and he said, “Sure, you do anything you want.”
“From the first time we saw each other, we stayed together for two weeks,” Clemons told CNN of Springsteen in 2009. “We were inseparable.”
In 2008, Clemons had double knee-replacement surgery. He regained his ability to walk in 2009; that year, he also published his memoir, Big Man.
The day after his book’s publication, charity organization Little Kids Rock honored Clemons with the first-ever “Big Man of the Year Award” to recognize his philanthropy in raising money for music programs in underfunded public schools.
Most recently, Clemons appeared in Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory.”
Clemons suffered a stroke last week in his home. He had undergone two brain surgeries in the days following, but he ultimately passed away from complications.
A gallery, with photos of Clemons spanning 1975-2011, is hidden after the cut.