…i heard this saxophone on the radio the other day & i knew it was you. i don’t know the song, but i know it was you on sax.
There have been many reactions to the death of The Big Man, Mr. Clarence Clemons. Articles, videos, interviews, posts. I woke up early Sunday (the 19th) morning in order to listen to the weekly Bruce Brunch on 105.7 The Hawk out of Manahawkin, NJ to see how they would honor Clarence’s life. People phoned in their memories. The Stone Pony was opened up at noon that day for fans to stop by and share their experiences. It was all too perfect that a horse named “E Street Shuffle” won the third race that day at Monmouth Park.
My first exposure to the E Street Band was undoubtedly during a round of “Rachel, who’s this?” played during car trips with my dad. Strapped into my carseat in the back of his red, Ford Escort, I’d say “The Band! Bruce! Bob Dylan!” whenever my pops would throw out the query. I’m sure, too, their records were played before I even grasped the concept of music memories. I also recall stories of my dad working the Tilt-a-Whirl on the Asbury boardwalk and, how growing up in Belmar, he lived blocks away from the actual E Street. I say ‘exposure to the E Street Band’ and not solely Bruce because - okay, Bruce is THE BOSS and is quite something on his own - but c’mon now, he’s backed by some talented, talented folk who help to tell his epic poems (as described by Mr. Conlon, quite rightly, me thinks).
I heard of the news while celebrating my birthday at The Scratcher in NYC. A friend walked in and said “I’m sorry to hear about the Big Man”. Clearly, I had no idea and immediately had to verify this terrible, terrible news. I (annoyingly) immediately asked the bartender if there was any Springsteen on the iPod. None. After the initial…shock…(sounds a little too dramatic)…I didn’t think much of it the rest of the night. It would hit me in little waves and, thankfully, I was surrounded by likeminded pals who were also devestated - looking to share their experiences and emotional ties to Clemons’ music. Questions were thrown out as to whether or not Bruce would tour again. “How can he play Tenth Avenue Freeze Out anymore?” “He’ll have to retire it. Rosalita? Jungleland?” I don’t think that will be the case. Let’s not forget the death of Mr. Danny Federici* in April of 2008. The Boss and the band moved on, replaced temporarily by Charles Giordano. It is my hope that Bruce will continue to tour and play those songs louder and stronger than ever before. It is also my hope that perhaps Clarence’s son, Jake, will get to honor is father in the biggest of ways in joining Bruce and company at one point (as Jay Weinberg did during Bruce’s last round of tours - and man, he killed it - like Animal from The Muppets up there). That is not to say that The Big Man is capable of being replaced - but I think NOT playing those songs would be a disservice both to his memory and his great contribution to the E Street Band and music as we know it.
Of course, his death brings about a few other emotions and thoughts for me (and others who I’ve conversed with), mainly what happens when more of our music icons pass? How will we deal? How will the world mourn? Morbid but undoubtedly real possibilities seeing as most of the music I listen to is of my father’s generation. There is only one other rock & roll death that caused such pain in my heart thus far in my twenty six years : that of George Harrison. I remember being in the hallway of my high school and crying with a couple of close friends who, too, had deemed the quiet Beatle their favorite. I also sat in the front of the tele in 2000 when there was special after special for the 20th year anniversary of John Lennon’s death. I collected all of the newspaper clippings and taped (yes, VHS!) the ceremonies so I could watch over and over again.
Like any experience with death, we tend to be hit with a reality check of just how fleeting our moments here on earth are. Not too get religious or philosophical on you now. But what better way to immerse yourself in these moments of sorrow than to celebrate the lives of these musicians by turning it up a little louder, singing a bit more soulfully (no matter how off key. My favorite place to do this is in the car, on the NJ Turnpike, driving to the Jersey Shore. Sorry, Snooks. Bruceland, not yours) and seeing as many concerts and live shows as you can? I’ve personally and vicariously seen and FELT many, many instances of the healing powers of music - in the last few months especially. Through death, sadness, pain and loss - it carries us through and forward. Some of these sentiments are expressed in previous posts. This has not been my intention which just goes to show how much and how often it comes back and comes down to the music.
So, regardless of whether you have or have not already, please forward to track 8 in your Born To Run hymnal and let yourself give praise to The Big Man.