Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Big Man Joins The Band

Clarence Anicholas Clemons, Jr. 
January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011
Its like this. Its like church.
I've only had the opportunity to see the E Street Band once. My seats were so high in the place that I was looking for those little dangling oxygen masks they have on airplanes. It didn't matter. Everyone sang. Everyone. I've never been to a concert where the arena was so full of love. Love for the music, love for the musician.

I know I've talked before about music and how every bit of music I love soundtracks some part of my life. I can listen to an album and tell you exactly where I lived when I first heard it, how old I was, whether I had a Walkman or a simple tape recorder or a CD player, but when it comes to Bruce Springsteen, it goes a little deeper. I can tell you exactly where I was in 1982 when I finally got my own copy of The River (so I no longer had to sneak my sister's double album into my room when she wasn't home to play on my portable record player), I can tell you that I was in the car driving past the place where I took guitar lessons when I was pulling the shrink wrap off the cassette. And I can tell you that I played it until it broke, to be replaced later by a CD. Born in the USA was the very first CD I ever owned. I'd stay up late to tape interviews and rare B Sides, wait for broadcasts of janky, informal concerts at the Stone Pony. I even recorded the station ID Bruce did for Philadelphia's WMMR. I learned 85 of Bruce's songs.

Its frustrating to try and explain how much this music means to me. I'd lay on my bed with headphones on, listening and pulling it all apart; the gorgeous piano. The story that was being told. I got lost in the pictures being painted. And like a gold thread running through it all, that saxophone. It could sashay loud and sassy through a fun song or wail, disconsolate, through a sad one. I loved the songs and I loved that the band seemed like a family. A family that invited us, the fans, to celebrate, to laugh, even to cry with them. Which is what I feel like doing today.

Thank you, Mr. Clemons, for being part of the music that made my childhood. I will miss you.


Melany said...

Now THIS is what you call good music!

I've always loved Bruce Springsteen & The E. Street Band. I was so sad to hear about Mr. Clemmons. There will never be another.

Marco said...

Beautiful tribute post. Gave me the shivers because this could have been me. I have had the exact same experience with the E Street Band ever since I was 11 years old and got my first vinyl record ever: Born in the USA.

Thanks for the great post.

Anonymous said...

I love your post and I feel the same. My dad has always been one of their biggest fans and we've been lucky to have gone together, to about 5 or 6 concerts. Every time, it's the best concert I've ever been to because everyone sings and everyone dances. For someone like me, who is naturally shy, going to one of their concerts always gets me moving and I'm never embarassed. And you're right, the E Street Band is a family and I'm happy they invited us to join. The night before Clarence had the stroke I stayed up late watching them on TV - The Rising Tour in Spain was on and I've seen it several times, but I had a blast just watching it from my couch! They will forever be my favorite band and they will forever remind me of my dad.

Kir said...

What a gorgeous tribute to him and the music of our childhood. I feel like world is less skilful somehow now. Thank u for sharing this with us.

KJ Callaway said...

I remember listening to this tape on my Uncle's farm in South Dakota, and all of us jamming out to a crappy walkman and a set of mini speakers I had rigged to the saddle of my horse! (none of us was old enough to drive) we would ride to the huge waterfall and lake near our farm, tether the horses and swim while listening. Thanks for the memories.

Lin said...

While I wasn't a huge Springsteen fan, my heart sunk when I heard that The Big Man had passed. Gees, Bruce and the gang were the soundtrack to our high school and college years. Sad to see it go. :(

meleah rebeccah said...

The first time I saw them in concert I was 8 years old. My mother took me. And I have loved Bruce Springsteen & The E. Street Band ever since.

RIP Mr. Clemmons.

Hobo's Books said...

I wasn't a HUGE Springsteen fan, either, though I liked many a song and appreciated all they've contributed to the American music culture ... our scene... our flavors... our history... their legacy in that.

But I had to comment because I really relate to what you said about music. Whenever a song comes on the radio, or over the speakers at a store, if it was a song I liked, I am transported to that sliver of my personal history when I first heard that song. I remember playing certain albums on the long drive back and forth between Wellsboro and Wake Forest, playing certain CDs over and over, and singing every nuance. I remember albums playing in the background when I worked in the kitchen at camp, or songs that we played at parties in my college service fraternity, or songs that we on "mix tapes" from friends in high school. I remember all the songs from the first record album I ever owned, when I was in 4th or 5th grade. I love that about music, and I love how it unites us.