It’s Saturday, June 18, 2011. I was sitting in Itzik Hagadol, an Israeli restaurant in Encino, CA. My folks are visiting from New Jersey and we were out on the patio eating way too much food. I’m still full.
My brother was sending me texts from the Honduras-Mexico soccer game they were at, at Giants Stadium. Sounded like fun. They all had matching Honduras t-shirts. I try to ignore my phone during meals, as I need to set a good example for my soon-to-have-a-cell-phone daughter, but since the discussion was family related and light and he just sent a picture, I looked down.
It was another text from Dan. “Clarence died.”
“Oh my G-d,” I exclaimed. My parents immediately feared the worst, and asked what was wrong. I said “Clarence Clemons died,” and then I burst into tears, right in the middle of the restaurant. I kept a good lid on my sobs and covered my face, so I am guessing no one else knew what was going on, but… the news just shook me and took me by surprise.
When I say I am devastated and heart-broken, it’s as real as it gets. For anyone who loves this band, you will know immediately and viscerally what I am talking about. This is… My G-d… this is the end and may be the end of something I have known for almost my whole life… at least my whole musical life. This is so beyond the music and simply being a fan of something, because the band put their heart and soul into everything they did. They took us on a journey and moved us. They picked us up when we were down, and rocked us when we just wanted to have fun. This band means everything, because they have been a part of everything.
The last I had heard Clarence was doing better and it looked like things were moving in a positive direction. I mean how much did I really know and how much honest information were we actually getting? I don’t know, but I can tell you I was not expecting to be writing this.
My parents looked at me like I was crazy. Why is our son crying for a man he does not really know? They did not say that, nor ask it out loud, but I am sure that was close to their thought.
I tried to explain it. This is a man who has been part of my life for over 30 years. I have listened to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band since junior high school and have seen them live more than any other band or artist. As I wrote just a few days ago, I have stood in front of Clarence Clemons many times, and he, me. And knowing what kind of man he was and what kind of band the E Street Band is, when I say he was looking at me and connecting with me, you know I mean it… and you know he meant it.
Seeing Bruce and the boys live was a true religious experience. And I do not say that lightly or jokingly or with any kind of idolatry. Those shows gave me a spirituality and a lift and a sense that I could conquer the world. They made me happy and blissful. It was beyond joy. I promised my daughter that the next time the band came through town we would go.
What happens now? As much as the loss of Danny Federici hurt, Bruce’s relationship with Clarence was something even deeper. I don’t think Bruce could ever nor would ever try to replace him. So what happens now?
I need to stop… I need to breathe… I need to quiet these thoughts of mortality and hurt… I need to put on my stereo… Or at the very least, I need to plug in some headphones and just listen…
My friends Tawny Rene and Don sent me this link… Enjoy The Big Man.
Today’s album is The Wild, the Innocent & The E Street Shuffle… Why? Because that is what came to me… but you know I will be going through all of them for the next few days… hell, I will be listening to these albums for as long as I’m around.
Goodnight, Clarence… Every time I hear a saxophone, I’ll know you got your wings. This one is for you… The Master of Disaster, Emperor of the World, King of the Universe, Mayor of Half of Bayonne… The literal, physical and metaphorical Big Man.