I've just been notified of the passing of Clarence Clemons, a/k/a "The Big Man", saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen's legendary E Street Band.
I'm not a Bruce "super fan" nor do I really know much about Clarence. I know he had charisma. I know he had a lovable, easygoing stage persona and seemed like a truly wonderful human being.
But what is it about this story that seems to have affected EVERYONE so deeply? People who've never heard his music were pulling for him following the news of his stroke. I mean, obviously, it's proper to pull for anyone when you hear they have a stroke...but people were touched by this.
Clarence played a sax solo on a couple of tracks on Lady Gaga's new album. I thought it was very touching when she asked her fans to record videos of support for him. YouTube is riddled with "get well" videos from her "Little Monsters".
As immature and basic as this may sound, I think it's because of the man's stature. Not necessarily his stature as a musician (though that's certainly a factor for his millions of fans). I'm talking about his physical stature. Clarence Clemons was a beast of a man. Bruce didn't call him "Big Man" for nothin'.
He was also very warm and lovable. He seemed like a truly nice guy.
We all know folks like that. My grandpa was one of them. He was one of those guys who, if you weren't strong enough or brave enough to accomplish a specific task, he'd brush you aside and do it himself....when you were a 17 year old defensive lineman and he was 75+. But my granddad was gentle.
The shop teacher at my high school was another example. He passed away a few days ago. He was huge; one of the strongest people I've ever seen. One of my buddies worked with him over the summer and loves to tell the tale of the day he saw the teacher literally pick up a soda machine. He was a hard-ass and he meant business. But, if you showed respect and a genuine interest, he'd do whatever it took to teach you anything in the world, regardless of your skill level or your background.
Clarence "Big Man" Clemons seemed to be like that. He projected that aura. He was one of Bruce Springsteen's very best friends. But he gave off the sense that if you met him on the street, he'd be happy to talk to you. And that he'd be nice. And interested in who you were. And that he'd make you feel good without flaunting who he was.
People tune into that. While the masses can be fooled by the Hollywood/Music Business PR machine, we all have a bullshit detector deep down inside us. And guys like Clarence Clemons don't even budge the needle. And we can see that. We recognize the real deal.
And when a guy like that suffers a stroke, we all - die-hard fans, casual fans, and folks old and young who never knew who he was - are saddened and pull for him.
The world needs more guys like Clarence Clemons. RIP, Big Man.
"I have seen the future of the whole fuckin' thing and it is Big Man Clarence Clemons!!!" - Bruce Springsteen