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.

  1. Carolann Quinn says:

    Lady Gaga did release condolences on Twitter last night (Saturday). Please look in other places than Facebook!

  2. PETER PERREAULT says:

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET BAND WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.R.I.P. BIG MAN.WE’LL BE SADLY MISSED.

  3. A M says:

    RIP.

    Hey VH1, I get it. Stop running that damn banner on the shows. I would like to read the pop up videos!

  4. PC says:

    truly a musical icon for years…Rip “BIG MAN”

  5. Julie Meyerhoff says:

    Then a change was made uptown and The Big Man joined the band……. RIP, Clarence Clemons, you were truly one of a kind.

  6. Lisa Eilers says:

    R.I.P Big Man, i hope your music and spirits live on, i know it will with me. My prays are with you, & your family and your second family & East Street Band. i know they will deeply miss you. You stood beside them for 40 years, YOUR SPIRIT AND LOVE THAT YOU SHOWED EVERYONE. YOU’LL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED. MAY YOUR SAXOPHONE PLAY FOR ALL THE ANGLES IN HEAVEN CAUSE YOUR MUSIC AND LOVE WILL ALWAYS BE IN OUR HEARTS.
    LOVE A FAN.

  7. Isaac Loloey says:

    When jazz fans list there favorite 3 all time sax players, numbers 1 and 2 are typically always Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, and then fill-in-the-blank. That number 3 can be Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter,… That list could go on forever, producing one of the greatest debates among jazz fans, “Who is the 3rd best jazz sax player of all time.

    Classic Rock fan, in contrast, do not posses that complex of a debate. In a genre which dominated by guitar, ask most classic rock fan, “Who is the greatest rock sax player of all-time?” and you would get an over-whelming response of “Clarance Clemons” First of all, how many sax players could most rock fans name? Some more discriminating and sophisticated rock fans will mention David Sanborn, as the most well-know session player. Others may mention David Bowie, for doing his own saxophone solos, such as in “Changes”. (David Sanborn has recorded with Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie.)

    The Truth is, that there are only a handful of rock songs with sax solos, nothing unfamiliar to fans of Steely Dan, but few and far between for the mainstream rock audience. Typically sax solos in rock, are not preformed by a permanent band member. Usually, they are jazz musicians sitting in as session players that may or may not tour with the band after recording.

    Springsteen’s E Street Band was different. He had a sax player as a permanent fixture in his group. And other than Springsteen himself, Clarence was the most recognizable member of the E Street Band.

    Although, Clarence’s playing never truly reached the stature of the jazz greats, his impression on rock fans will be permanently burned into there collective consciousness. Listing the greatest sax solos in rock history, very few names will show up twice. Clarence’s best of list will co-inside with the “Best of Bruce”, a huge body of work.

    Some people have great talent, and others have the ability to discover it, Bruce posses both skills. Clarence showed great chemistry and was intricate in the E Street Band’s definitive sound.

    R.I.P. Big Man. We will miss you.

  8. Karen says:

    Been enjoying Clarence, Bruce, et al since 1985. E Street Band will never be the same. Bet Danny was waiting for him at the gate. RIP Big Man. Will never forget you.

  9. L Leone says:

    Springsteen and the E Street band was my first concert in the 80′s. They played for 5 hours no other band or entertainer has ever come close. God must of needed the best and biggest sax player for heavens band. May his loved ones take comfort in knowing his gift and spirit will go on. He will be waiting while he helps prepare a place for us. Rest in peace knowing you were admired and loved by many.

  10. Ed Leaman says:

    The music world is much smaller without the “Big Man.” The Jungleland [sax] solo was always emotional, it will be even more so now… R. I. P. Clarence

  11. Trishad says:

    So sorry to hear about Clarence. He was a towering presence (to use a popular cliche) in the E Street Band. It won’t be the same without him.

  12. My deepest sympathy to his family and the E-street band for his lost. He was and will always be a great Sax Player and person! Long live the BIG MAN!!! God will love his Playing!

  13. Frank hedges says:

    iv’e been a fan of clarence clemons for alot of years, i use to go to the village in the 70s to see bruce then when clarence joined it was great , i love the way he played, he was deffently the best sorry he is the best and always will be i will miss him . but i have alot of his music to make me feel better. heaven is a better place with clarence there it certainly sounds better. RIP BIG MAN

  14. vilma gall says:

    Farewell Clarence. Your presence and sax will be missed. The rock world has lost a legend that can never be replaced. My sympathies go to the family, Bruce, whom Clarence shared a deep bond of friendship, and the rest of the E Street band. Clarence you were one of a kind. Rest in Peace.

  15. Don thompson says:

    you will be missed by all to me there was only 2 great rock sax players you and of course alto reed. i will always have a great respect for you as a person and great saxaphone player !! RIp bigman

  16. scott says:

    rip big man all my best to all his family and friends

  17. Karen says:

    My heart aches…Clarence…you ARE where WE have YET togo, my Friend. The ANGELS were sent down to being you HOME! No more suffering . Just keep on playing your “sax”. WE will HEAR YOU down here on EARTH. You were the BEST…and I mean the BEST! My sincere thoughts, PRAYERS and comfort go out to your FAMILY, FRIENDS, BRUCE and ” THE E STREET BAND “, and FANS.
    ” PEACE ” With love to all, Karen ” PEACE “

  18. SUSAN JANNACE says:

    R.I.P. CLARENCE A GREAT LOSS TO THE MUSIC WORLD MY PRAYERS GO OUT TO
    THE FAMILY AND ALL THE FANS. I AM A BIG FAN SAW BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND
    THE “E” STREET BAND ABOUT 10 TIMES THROUGH THE YEARS. A VERY SAD DAY

  19. Rhonda Ketchum says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the E street band remember that Clarence will always be with you and Im sure that he is entertaining everyone in heaven right now, rock on Clarence and may God bless you all .

  20. kimberly l. says:

    i am a loyal springsting fan ”the big man” mr. clemons will be missed. E street band will never be the same

  21. T. B. says:

    Rest In Peace Big Man, Never been a fan of Bruce but admired your sax playing. You were Awesome. You will live by what you left behind.

    Now here is some smack talk towards VHI Classic channel. I don’t know whats up with your program director but he/she needs to be replaced. If you are going to change your line up of shows can you afford the courtesy of letting us know. I would like to know what E. Street Bands shows you are going to show. Plus your Movies That Rock half the time have nothing to do with music… Teen Wolf? Really?. Not only that it seems as you offer the same line up up everyday with guess what? The same movies, concerts, etc, as the day before. There is absolutely no thought that goes into your programming. Please get with it

  22. Gary Gunderson says:

    I learned of this great man’s passing,through Paul on “Letterman”.His tremendous talent,and personality will be very sadly missed.His feel and expertise for this instrument is nothing short of astounding. A man like him,comes in but,once in a life time.My never ending prayers go out to all his family and friends.God blessed us with this beautiful man and his horn for a lot of years.He has called him home now,to be with him in heaven.Thank you Lord. God bless the E Street band and their families. You have earned a well deserved rest,my brother. You will be very sadly,and greatly missed.