We lost a gentle giant and a very talented rock 'n' roll hero when Clarence Clemons passed away from health complications on June 18.
You sometimes can take the measure of people based on their nicknames, and this was true with Clemons. He was popularly and fondly known as The Big Man, owing as much to his 6-5, 270 lb. figure as his outgoing personality — and, especially, his evocative saxophone solos in support of his longtime friend and collaborator, Bruce Springsteen.
I saw Clemons on stage with Springsteen more than a dozen times since the first time in 1975, and Clemons was always right there! He was in tune, he was charismatic, he was joyful and he was, indeed, The Big Man.
Clemons left us lessons far beyond his stirring music. He showed how much we can accomplish when we contribute our talents as part of a winning team, which was certainly the bottom line of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.
Clemons may not have been the most skilled sax player in rock 'n' roll. Steve Douglas and Bobby Keys have their ardent fans, too. But Clemons more than made up for any of his deficiencies with his good nature and his easy smile.
It's no wonder Springsteen always counted on him and wrote his classic songs so that Clemons, not Bruce himself, was guaranteed to steal the show with one of those unforgettable solos — on "Jungleland," "Born to Run," "The River" and so many others, especially my personal favorite: "Out in the Street."
R.I.P. Big Man. You taught us a lot and we will miss you.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.
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