Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Death in the Musical Family

R.I.P. Clarence Clemons. It is truly the end of an era.

The E Street Band was the closet approximation to a family I ever saw on a rock and roll stage. After keyboardist Danny Federici died of melanoma, the family soldiered on, but it's hard to imagine anyone replacing or subbing for Clarence's signatrute throaty tones or onstage bravado.

When I saw the band on the last tour there was something in the air that felt like it might be the last time we were all in the same room together -- maybe Bruce sensed it too, that's why he did some cncerts where they performed entire albums start to finish, to make sure he touched all the bases.

I first saw Bruce and Clarence play at New York's long-gone Palladium in 1978 -- that's 33 friggin years ago. I once drove all the way to a little bar called Lock, Stock and Barrel in Fair Haven, NJ on the rumor that he was going to be playing - -and he was, with Southside Johnny, Garry Talent and a guy named Stormin Norman on piano. (Thanks to Google, I found this nice tribute Norman wrote when Clarence was ailing.)

I posted some videos on Facebook but this is a more permanent place to put them.
When introducing the band at the end of the night, Bruce always saved Clarence for last and gave him the biggest build up. The master of the unverse, king of the world, the mayor of half of Bayonne.

On this Father's Day he leaves behind four children. Bye, big man. Thanks for the many many soaring solos -- in fact thanks for every tambourine shake and bass background vocal. Thanks for your ho-ho-hos on "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Thanks for your crazy suits and hats.

[The black and white videos are from a concert in Passsaic around the same time as I first saw them play, miraculously the place had an in house video system.]

An instrumental built around "the C"

Ho ho ho.

Guesting on (and taking over) an Aretha Franklin song.

Scooter and the big man bust the city in half.

And, finally, Jungleland.

1 comment:

Robert said...

A lovely sendoff, David! Goodbye, Clarence. I have lost count of all the times you gave me such pleasure up on a stage. I guess you're going to meet the "real boss" now.