I’ve been sitting here listening to everyone talk about Clarence and staring
at that photo of the two of us right there. It’s a picture of Scooter and The
Big Man, people who we were sometimes. As you can see in this particular photo,
Clarence is admiring his muscles and I’m pretending to be nonchalant while
leaning upon him. I leaned on Clarence a lot; I made a career out of it in some
Those of us who shared Clarence’s life, shared with him his love and his
confusion. Though "C" mellowed with age, he was always a wild and unpredictable
ride. Today I see his sons Nicky, Chuck, Christopher and Jarod sitting here and
I see in them the reflection of a lot of C’s qualities. I see his light, his
darkness, his sweetness, his roughness, his gentleness, his anger, his
brilliance, his handsomeness, and his goodness. But, as you boys know your pop
was a not a day at the beach. "C" lived a life where he did what he wanted to do
and he let the chips, human and otherwise, fall where they may. Like a lot of us
your pop was capable of great magic and also of making quite an amazing mess.
This was just the nature of your daddy and my beautiful friend. Clarence’s
unconditional love, which was very real, came with a lot of conditions. Your pop
was a major project and always a work in progress. "C" never approached anything
linearly, life never proceeded in a straight line. He never went A… B…. C…. D.
It was always A… J…. C…. Z… Q… I….! That was the way Clarence lived and made his
way through the world. I know that can lead to a lot of confusion and hurt, but
your father also carried a lot of love with him, and I know he loved each of you
very very dearly.
It took a village to take care of Clarence Clemons. Tina, I’m so glad you’re
here. Thank you for taking care of my friend, for loving him. Victoria, you’ve
been a loving, kind and caring wife to Clarence and you made a huge difference
in his life at a time when the going was not always easy. To all of "C’s" vast
support network, names too numerous to mention, you know who you are and we
thank you. Your rewards await you at the pearly gates. My pal was a tough act
but he brought things into your life that were unique and when he turned on that
love light, it illuminated your world. I was lucky enough to stand in that light
for almost 40 years, near Clarence’s heart, in the Temple of Soul.
So a little bit of history: from the early days when Clarence and I traveled
together, we’d pull up to the evenings lodgings and within minutes "C" would
transform his room into a world of his own. Out came the colored scarves to be
draped over the lamps, the scented candles, the incense, the patchouli oil, the
herbs, the music, the day would be banished, entertainment would come and go,
and Clarence the Shaman would reign and work his magic night, after night.
Clarence’s ability to enjoy Clarence was incredible. By 69, he’d had a good run,
because he’d already lived about 10 lives, 690 years in the life of an average
man. Every night, in every place, the magic came flying out of C’s suitcase. As
soon as success allowed, his dressing room would take on the same trappings as
his hotel room until a visit there was like a trip to a sovereign nation that
had just struck huge oil reserves. "C" always knew how to live. Long before
Prince was out of his diapers, an air of raunchy mysticism ruled in the Big
Man’s world. I’d wander in from my dressing room, which contained several fine
couches and some athletic lockers, and wonder what I was doing wrong! Somewhere
along the way all of this was christened the Temple of Soul; and "C" presided
smilingly over its secrets, and its pleasures. Being allowed admittance to the
Temple’s wonders was a lovely thing.
As a young child my son Sam became enchanted with the Big Man… no surprise. To a
child Clarence was a towering fairy tale figure, out of some very exotic
storybook. He was a dreadlocked giant, with great hands and a deep mellifluous
voice sugared with kindness and regard. And… to Sammy, who was just a little
white boy, he was deeply and mysteriously black. In Sammy’s eyes, "C" must have
appeared as all of the African continent, shot through with American cool,
rolled into one welcoming and loving figure. So… Sammy decided to pass on my
work shirts and became fascinated by Clarence’s suits and his royal robes. He
declined a seat in dad’s van and opted for "C’s" stretch limousine, sitting by
his side on the slow cruise to the show. He decided dinner in front of the
hometown locker just wouldn’t do, and he’d saunter up the hall and disappear
into the Temple of Soul.
Of course, also enchanted was Sam’s dad, from the first time I saw my pal
striding out of the shadows of a half empty bar in Asbury Park, a path opening
up before him; here comes my brother, here comes my sax man, my inspiration, my
partner, my lifelong friend. Standing next to Clarence was like standing next to
the baddest ass on the planet. 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. Clarence could be fragile but he also emanated power and safety,
and in some funny way we became each other’s protectors; I think perhaps I
protected "C" from a world where it still wasn’t so easy to be big and black.
Racism was ever present and over the years together, we saw it. Clarence’s
celebrity and size did not make him immune. I think perhaps "C" protected me
from a world where it wasn’t always so easy to be an insecure, weird and skinny
white boy either. But, standing together we were badass, on any given night, on
our turf, some of the baddest asses on the planet. 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. Together, we told an older, richer story about the
possibilities of friendship that transcended those I’d written in my songs and
in my music. Clarence carried it in his heart. It was a story where the Scooter
and the Big Man not only busted the city in half, but we kicked ass and remade
the city, shaping it into the kind of place where our friendship would not be
such an anomaly. And that… that’s what I’m gonna miss. The chance to renew that
vow and double down on that story on a nightly basis, because that is something,
that is the thing that we did together… the two of us. Clarence was big, and he
made me feel, and think, and love, and dream big. How big was the Big Man? Too
fucking big to die. And that’s just the facts. You can put it on his grave
stone, you can tattoo it over your heart. Accept it… it’s the New World.
Clarence doesn’t leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die.
So, I’ll miss my friend, his sax, the force of nature his sound was, his glory,
his foolishness, his accomplishments, his face, his hands, his humor, his skin,
his noise, his confusion, his power, his peace. But his love and his story, the
story that he gave me, that he whispered in my ear, that he allowed me to tell…
and that he gave to you… is gonna carry on. I’m no mystic, but the undertow, the
mystery and power of Clarence and my friendship leads me to believe we must have
stood together in other, older times, along other rivers, in other cities, in
other fields, doing our modest version of god’s work… work that’s still
unfinished. So I won’t say goodbye to my brother, I’ll simply say, see you in
the next life, further on up the road, where we will once again pick up that
work, and get it done.
Big Man, thank you for your kindness, your strength, your dedication, your work,
your story. Thanks for the miracle… and for letting a little white boy slip
through the side door of the Temple of Soul.
SO LADIES AND GENTLEMAN… ALWAYS LAST, BUT NEVER LEAST. LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE
MASTER OF DISASTER, the BIG KAHUNA, the MAN WITH A PHD IN SAXUAL HEALING, the
DUKE OF PADUCAH, the KING OF THE WORLD, LOOK OUT OBAMA! THE NEXT BLACK PRESIDENT
OF THE UNITED STATES EVEN THOUGH HE’S DEAD… YOU WISH YOU COULD BE LIKE HIM BUT
YOU CAN’T! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE BIGGEST MAN YOU’VE EVER SEEN!... GIVE ME A
C-L-A-R-E-N-C-E. WHAT’S THAT SPELL? CLARENCE! WHAT’S THAT SPELL? CLARENCE!
WHAT’S THAT SPELL? CLARENCE! … amen.
I’m gonna leave you today with a quote from the Big Man himself, which he shared
on the plane ride home from Buffalo, the last show of the last tour. As we
celebrated in the front cabin congratulating one another and telling tales of
the many epic shows, rocking nights and good times we’d shared, "C" sat quietly,
taking it all in, then he raised his glass, smiled and said to all gathered,
"This could be the start of something big."
Love you, "C".