Sorrow On The Edge Of Town

From the time a little more than a week ago when I heard that Clarence Clemons, saxophone player and the heart of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, had sustained a stroke, I expected worse news to come. Reports last week that he’d improved and was stable were welcome. But still, I wondered.

So it wasn’t a horrible surprise Saturday evening when I saw the first link shared on Facebook of a news report detailing the death of the man Springsteen – and his fans – called the Big Man. I read Monday at a number of news and music sites that the Stone Pony – the iconic night spot in Asbury Park, New Jersey, where Springsteen, Clemons and the rest frequently played – became a gathering place on Sunday for mourners on the Jersey Shore.

One of those pieces was by Angie Sugrim, who covers Asbury Park for the blog The Vinyl District. She, as did many, reminded readers of a night in 1971:

“And of course, on a dark and rainy night, Clemons stopped in on a show that young Bruce was playing, the door of the venue literally blown off by the storm that evening as Clarence opened it to enter. His hulking figure and dark visage, framed by the freshly stripped doorway immediately drew the band’s attention. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Well, I – like the vast majority of the Big Man’s fans – could not get to Asbury Park Saturday evening or Sunday. So where did I go? Facebook. For most of Saturday evening, the Springsteen and Clemons fans among those who are on my list of friends shared memories and posted links, taking us to news reports and to YouTube videos of Clemons’ performances with and without Springsteen and the E Street Band. (The evening reinforced a conclusion I’ve drawn over the past year, one that others have come to as well: Facebook has become the town square of the Internet.)

I said above that Clemons’ death wasn’t a horrible surprise, and it wasn’t. Still, it was a horrible piece of news. And for the second time in my life, I wept at the death of a favorite performer. The first was John Lennon. I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from that, if there are any to draw at all. I didn’t ponder anything Saturday evening. What I did was recall the two times I’d seen Clemons in concert, both in St. Paul: In 1989 when he was a member of Ringo Starr’s first All-Starr Band and in 2009, when Springsteen and the E Street Band were touring.

As the links to Springsteen and Clemons videos multiplied on Facebook, I went and put together my own simple video and posted the link at Facebook. And I dried my tears and joined the grieving crowd gathering in the virtual town square.


One Response to “Sorrow On The Edge Of Town”

  1. Paco Malo Says:

    Great piece.

    The first time I saw Bruce was on the ’78 Darkness on the Edge of Town tour. The way Clarence explained it helped me understand a feeling I got that night. I saw a visionary with a rock ‘n’ roll band. That summer night in 1978 there seemed to be a glow around the band, focused on Bruce. Clarence was a big part of Bruce’s vision. I’m lucky I got to see it.

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