Virginia native Clarence Clemons, the saxophone soul of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, died Saturday at age 69. He was born and raised in the Tidewater area. Both before and after Clemons hooked up with Springsteen on the Jersey Shore in 1971, Springsteen had some of his earliest success in the Richmond area.
“This was a town we made our living in for a long time,” Springsteen said at the Richmond Coliseum show in 2003. “Back then there was only this place and one other place... thank God we had two places! This town kept us going, and you don’t forget that.” He summoned Virginians Robbin Thompson and Bruce Hornsby to the stage that night, and at a show in 1999 at the MCI Center, Hornsby and NoVa favorite Mary Chapin Carpenter joined the band.
An excellent obituary of Clarence Clemons by The Post’s Terence McArdle is here. And the definitive Clemons-Springsteen story, by the Springsteen site Backstreets.com, is here. From the churches to the jails, tonight all is silent in the world, Springsteen sang before Clemons’ epic solo in ”Jungleland.” Rest in peace, Big Man.
I first saw Bruce and Clarence in September 1978. Watching thousands of fans sing “Thunder Road” in unison, or pumping their fists in the air as Clarence belted out the solo to “Jungleland,” or sharing the pure pandemonium of “Rosalita” forever changed my idea of what rock n roll, and live music, should be. I can still see it like it was yesterday. Here is some crummy video, but excellent audio, from a show in New Jersey a few days after my own baptism: