45 years ago: Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons perform together for the first time
It was a friendship that lasted many decades betweens The Boss & E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons.
Mr Clemons became an essential part of the band, the pair were well known as The Boss and the Big Man.
The pair met in a bar on the 4th of September, 1971 where Clemons was in a band that Springsteen's ex-girlfriend was the lead singer of. After their gig, Springsteen's ex-girlfriend introduced the two to each other.
Bruce didn't immediately ask Clemons to join his band. And despite the small size of the music scene they both were involved in, the pair didn't meet again until almost a year later when Springsteen went back to go and watch him play.
For the next couple of decades, the pair were inseparable.
“Standing next to Clarence was like standing next to the baddest ass on the planet,” Springsteen said in Clemons’ eulogy. “You were proud, you were strong, you were excited and laughing with what might happen, with what together, you might be able to do. You felt like no matter what the day or the night brought, nothing was going to touch you. … We were united, we were strong, we were righteous, we were unmovable, we were funny, we were corny as hell and as serious as death itself. And we were coming to your town to shake you and to wake you up.”
They provided a striking visual: a then-scrawny white boy and the 6’4” rock-solid African American, who had played semi-pro football and had a tryout scheduled with the Cleveland Browns before a 1968 car accident derailed his career. It was cemented on the cover of 1975’sBorn to Run, with Springsteen smiling as he leaned on Clemons’ shoulder. The last verse of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” created the myth of the effect Clemons’ arrival had: “The change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band / From the coastline to the city, all the little pretties raise their hands / I’m gonna sit back right easy and laugh / When Scooter and the Big Man bust the city in half.”
Clemons unfortunately passed away on the 17th of June, 2011 after having suffering from a stroke.
Since then, and in Clemons memory, Springsteen has performed Tenth Avenue Freeze Out at nearly every show.