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Clarence Clemons Has Passed Away


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Updated post below. Passed away Saturday 6/18.

Let's hope the Big Man is alright.

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Andy Greene

June 12, 2011 9:56 PM ET

Rolling Stone can confirm reports that Clarence Clemons has had a stroke. The news broke this evening at 411.com, which reported that Clemons is "seriously ill after a stroke at his home in Florida." We have no information on the severity of the stroke, but we have independently confirmed that the E Street Band saxophonist has suffered a stroke.

Clemons has gone through a series of medical ailments - mostly involving his back and knees - over the past decade. He hasn't missed any concerts, but the conditions caused him to suffer a tremendous amount of pain and discomfort. "That last tour was hell," Clemons told Rolling Stone in February. "Pure hell." In the past year Clemons had both knees replaced and spinal fusion surgery. "The timing was perfect because it didn't interfere with a lot of stuff that was going on in my life," he says. "It made me stronger, and for the past year I've been in physical therapy a few days a week working my ass off to get back in shape. I'm walking better now, though I still use a cane and crutches. But now I'm having hip problems again. I don't know why."

Clemons last performed with Springsteen and the E Street Band in December of 2010 at Asbury Park's Carousel House for a special web broadcast taping. He performs on two songs on Lady Gaga's new album Born This Way, and just last month played "Edge of Glory" with her at the season finale of American Idol. He was supposed to play the national anthem before Game 2 of the NBA Finals last week, but a hand injury forced him to cancel at the last minute. He watched the game in the stands with Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning.

When Rolling Stone spoke to Clemons in February he said that virtually nothing would take him off the road with Springsteen and The E Street Band. "As long as my mouth, hands and brain still work I'll be out there doing it," he said. "I'm going to keep going 'til I'm not there anymore. This is what's keeping me alive and feeling young and inspired. My spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy told me that my purpose in life is to bring joy and light to the world, and I don't know any better way to do then what I'm doing now."

We'll have more information on Clemons' medical condition as the story develops.

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A sad day.

Rolling Stone story.

Clarence Clemons, the legendary saxophonist in the E Street Band who played alongside Bruce Springsteen for the past 40 years, died on June 18th. Clemons had suffered a massive stroke on June 12th. While initial signs had been hopeful after his hospitalization and two subsequent brain surgeries, he reportedly took a turn for the worse later in the week. He was 69.

Clemons – known affectionately to fan and friends as the Big Man – was the heart and soul of the E Street Band. His playing on tracks like "Born To Run," "Thunder Road," "Jungleland," "Dancing In The Dark" and countless more represent some of the most famous sax work in the history of rock & roll. "The story I have told throughout my work life I could not have told as well without Clarence," Springsteen wrote in the introduction to Clemons' 2009 memoir Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales.

So much has been said and written about the stormy night in Asbury Park in 1971 when Clemons met Springsteen that it's hard to separate fact from myth. At the time, Springsteen was a struggling musician playing the New Jersey bar circuit and Clemons was a former college football player who spent his nights playing sax in clubs along the shore. "It was raining and thundering like a motherfucker," Clemons wrote in his memoir. "When I opened the door it blew off the hinges and flew down the street . . . Somebody introduced me to Bruce, everybody knew everybody, and he asked me if I wanted to sit in."

Clemons soon became part of Springsteen's backing band (not yet known as the E Street Band), and when Bruce recorded his debut LP Greetings From Asbury Park in the summer of 1972, Clemons was brought in for the sessions. Over the next two decades, Clemons became the most recognizable member of the E Street Band – for his massive size, equally huge personality and his onstage role as Springsteen's foil.

He's the only member of the band on the cover of Born To Run with Springsteen. "When you open it up and see Clarence and me together, the album begins to work its magic," Springsteen wrote in Clemons' memoir. "Who are these guys? Where did they come from? What is the joke they are sharing? A friendship and a narrative steeped in the complicated history of America begins to work and there is music already in the air."

In the 1980s, Clemons began a second career as an actor, appearing in TV shows like Diff'rent Strokes and movies such as Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. He also scored a solo hit in 1985 with "You're A Friend Of Mine," a duet with Jackson Browne. He was on tour with Ringo Starr's All Star Band in 1989 when Springsteen phoned him to say he was breaking up the band. "I didn't speak or even attempt to interject," Clemons wrote in his memoir. "I got very quiet and stopped smiling. In fact, it looked to Ringo like I was being told about somebody dying."

The E Street Band reformed in 1999 and has been incredibly active ever since. Clemons loved being back on the road, even as he battled incredible pain with his knees, back and hips. Earlier this year, he played sax on two tracks on Lady Gaga's new album Born This Way. He appears in the recently released video for "Edge of Glory," and his final live performance was with Gaga on the season finale of American Idol.

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