This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 7, 2002 10:14 PM. The previous post in this blog was Musical interlude. The next post in this blog is That's our guy. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, November 7, 2002

Best wishes to the Big Man

Bruce Springsteen's saxophone player and long-time stage foil Clarence Clemons is recuperating from surgery for a partially detached retina. The rousing Bruce tour is on hold until the Big Man, as he is known, is ready to blow again.

When Springsteen first burst onto the national scene in '75, the fold-out cover of Born to Run -- that Eric Meola photo of Bruce leaning on Clarence -- captured everyone's imagination. To most of the country, it seemed like an improbable pair -- this round but powerful black guy with the big horn and this skinny, melting-pot acrobat (so much shorter he's obviously standing on a box), with the Fender Esquire around his neck, smilingly admiring his friend. To people from urban New Jersey, however, this was no aberration. It was but a simple illustration of how seemingly different people come together to share and protect the good things they have when the world around them is one big bleak, oil refinery-lined turnpike. Here are some young men making magic in the apartment house basement after Tony Soprano heads back to the 'burbs for the night.

In concert an important peak in those days was when Bruce and Clarence would stalk each other menacingly, coming closer, closer, closer... then nose to nose...

At which point they'd suddenly kiss, which was the cue for a major blast from the entire band and the next segment of the song. It brought the house down every time.

Bruce has written lots of different kinds of music over the three decades since "they made that change uptown and the Big Man joined the band." The dramatic moments in the new songs are no longer reserved for the sax. On several numbers, Clarence is relegated to a tambourine-and-maracas role. But he stands stalwart up there on the stage, as if to say, "This is my family. I'm proud to be up here. Don't mess with us."

Springsteen's introductions of Clarence are always a treat. They typically take on the tone of a wrestling ring announcer. So awed is the Boss that he doesn't even look at Clarence as he shouts out his accolades. One year he was "the Master... of... Disaster!" In Portland a couple of months ago, Springsteen feigned a loss for words and sputtered out: "You wish you could be like him, but you can't!"

Indeed you can't. We can't wait to see Clarence back up on that bandstand as soon as he is able, and we hope that it is soon.

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