Adios, Big Man

Asbury Park, New Jersey – September, 1971. A Nor’easter blew in that night. Its cold devil wind rattled the windows of the storefronts along the shore. Wires of lightning jolted the black sky. Thunder cracked and rolled. He was a big man. He carried a saxophone in his hand. He stood outside a bar called The Student Prince. Inside a band was playing, the singer was singing something about rock and roll. He could hear strains of the music through the din of the slanting rain. He’d heard about the cat inside. The sax gripped tight in his hand, he made his move. As he pulled open the door, the thunder roared once more and an extraordinary gust of wind swept up and tore the door off its hinges, tore it out of his hand. The door flying down the street and this big black man, 6 feet 4, 250 pounds, dressed all in black standing in the doorway of a white bar silhouetted by the silver rain and the bone white lighting – heads turned, the band quit playing. He walked up and got on the stage. “I want to play with your band.” The singer looked up at the black giant and said nervously, “Sure, you do whatever you want.”

More than music was made that night. For some of us it was history.

Years later, the Big Man said of that mythical evening when he first met Bruce Springsteen: “I swear I will never forget that moment. I felt like I was supposed to be there. It was a magical moment. He looked at me, and I looked at him, and we fell in love. And that’s still there.”

Clarence Clemmons 1942 – 2011

Go in peace, brother. Thanks for the music, and the memories.

NY Times obituary
Rolling Stone


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