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Sunday
Jun192011

Music Fans Remember 'The Big Man'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Music fans are remembering Clarence Clemons, the powerhouse who helped catapult Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to the rock and roll Hall of Fame.

The saxophonist died Saturday of complications from a stroke he suffered on June 12. He was age 69.

Known to his fans as "The Big Man" for his towering 6-foot-5 frame and his mighty tenor sax riffs, Clemons was the rhythm and soul of the E Street Band and a fixture in Springsteen's legendary live concerts and the signature sound of so many of the band's songs.

He grew up in Norfolk, Va., and attended Maryland State College on both a football and music scholarship but music quickly won out.

Before graduating he moved to Newark, N.J., where the myth that became the premiere American rock band of the 1970s began.

"Bruce and Clarence had this special bond, anyone in the E Street Band would tell you that, but really it was onstage where it really turned to magic," said Robert Santelli, executive director of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

The importance of Clemons' role in the band was underscored by Springsteen himself in the song "10th Avenue Freeze Out," in which the lyrics explain how the E Street Band found success when "the big man joined the band; from the coastline to the city, all the little critters raised their hand."

Clemons had played with Springsteen since 1972. His stage presence with Springsteen had been a central feature of their concerts; his saxophone a defining element on such mega hits as "Thunder Road," "Badlands" and "Jungleland."

Although Clemons was best known for his work with the E Street Band, as recently as last month he performed on the American Idol finale episode with Lady Gaga.

Clemons also released several solo albums, and collaborated with other stars, including the hit single with Jackson Browne in the 1980s "You're a Friend of Mine" and Aretha Franklin's hit "Freeway of Love."

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