As someone who has seen Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert more than a half-dozen times over the last thirty years, this comes as very, very sad news. Clemons’ vibrant and distinctive work on the saxophone was a crucial and defining sound in Springsteen’s early albums, but the sideman’s commanding presence on the stage and the obvious camaraderie the two men shared (that was sometimes sealed with a surprisingly macho stage kiss), was just as irreplaceable. Springsteen may have been The Boss of the E Street Band but in so many ways Clemons was the soul; the 6 foot 4 inch quiet, solid authority figure who could bring down the house with a smile.
For my money, what you see below is greatest album cover ever created, something that says so much about the easy bond between two men with such simplicity. And what a unique happenstance that the vinyl disc inside the “Born to Run” cover more than lives up to the promise of its memorable packaging:
If I had to pick a favorite Clemons’ musical moment it would no doubt be his unforgettable solo that closes “Thunder Road” (the song that ended with the famous stage kiss between the two men). Springsteen’s character does the earthbound work of pleading with a damaged and frightened vision called Mary to trust and run away with him; he promises her everything because he’s too young and too much in love and too desperate to save her to know he has absolutely nothing. And then Clemons steps in to fulfill that promise through a bittersweet but still uplifting closer that tells you the young couple might just beat the odds and make it — might just “win.”‘
Today we mourn the passing of the Big Man and also the E Street Band itself … because it’s impossible to imagine one without the other.