R.I.P. Clarence Clemons (1942-2011)

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Sad news to pass along this evening: Clarence “Big Man” Clemons, the renowned saxophone player in Bruce Springsteen‘s E Street Band, passed away earlier this evening as a result of complications from the stroke he suffered earlier this week.

We’d like to pay our respects to The Big Man by programming 24 hours of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band on VH1 Classic. Starting at 7 p.m. on Sunday night, we’ll be airing the concert films Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Live in New York City (2000) and Live In Barcelona (2002) back-to-back for 24 consecutive hours.

Clemons first rose to prominence in 1971 after agreeing to team up with fellow Asbury Park, NJ musician Bruce Springsteen. The Bruce Springsteen Band, as they were called back then, didn’t make it very far, but Bruce reconstituted the group a few years later under the moniker of the E Street Band and, as they say, the rest is history. Clemons became an instrumental part of Springsteen’s band, contributing some of the most famous sax solos in music history on songs like “Born To Run” and “Jungleland,” and was such an integral part of Springsteen’s creative process that The Boss wrote the song “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and included their origin story as part of one of the verses.

Earlier this evening, Springsteen released the following statement about Clemons:

Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.

As devastated as we were when we got wind of Clarence’s passing earlier tonight, we feel that it’s also important to remind everyone that the Big Man went out on a real creative high note. Thanks to his soaring sax solo on Lady Gaga’s “The Edge Of Glory,” a whole new generation of music fans have been exposed to his unparalleled woodwind work, and will no doubt begin to pour over his impressive body of work. Speaking of Gaga, at press time (11:30 p.m. on 6/18), the Mother Monster had yet to weigh in on this tragic news on Twitter; even still, she deserves to be commended for rallying the support of her Little Monsters earlier this week to wish Clarence the best.

We’ll have more to share about the life and legacy of Clarence Clemons when we return on Monday, but for now, our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones this evening during this difficult time.

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