Clarence Clemons (Wikimedia Commons)
Since his death on Saturday, fans of Clarence Clemons have been racing to their computers, stereos and MP3 players to watch videos of and listen to The Big Man's spectacular saxophone work. We at The Obit Report are among them. We spent a lot of time over the weekend revisiting nearly 40 years of Clemons' music, and we'd like to share a few favorites with you.
First up was the obvious one, the go-to song – one of the greatest sax solos in all of rock music. It's "Jungleland," the closing track from Bruce Springsteen's seminal album Born to Run. The whole song is a classic, but we're here for The Big Man, so here's a clip of just the solo, from a live performance:
While we were thinking about Born to Run, we couldn't skip the title track. The sax solo is a little shorter than the one in "Jungleland," but it's iconic – who can say they've never heard Clarence Clemons play that riff? He does his thing throughout the song, too:
Clemons stayed with Springsteen's E Street Band for years, adding his distinctive tones to many of their best-known songs – and to a few sleeper singles, like Born in the U.S.A.'s sixth chart-topper, "I'm Goin' Down."
While Clarence Clemons was a hugely important part of the E Street Band, his work went well beyond backing Springsteen. His sax solo was a highlight of Aretha Franklin's 1985 hit "Freeway of Love," and he spiced up the video, too, with his cool shades and snappy dancing:
That same year, Clemons released his first single of his own, a duet with Jackson Browne called "You're a Friend of Mine." And fans learned that not only was Clemons a superstar sax player – he had vocal chops too. They loved the combo, and the song made it to #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Even after Bruce Springsteen disbanded the E Street Band in 1989, Clemons continued to work with his old bandmate throughout his life. And he played with other top artists, as diverse as the Grateful Dead and Lady Gaga. Indeed, some of Clemons' last great music was made with Lady Gaga, as he played on three tracks from her 2011 album, Born This Way.
Clemons' comment on working with Lady Gaga summed up his love for his work: "I'm surprised I'm getting paid for this. I would have done it for free. I can never believe something that feels so good earns me money."
It felt good for the rest of us, too. Thanks, Big Man.