Shearer’s Spotlight: Remembering Clarence Clemons


Each Friday here on the VH1 Blog, our VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown host Jim Shearer (@jimshearer on Twitter) will be sharing his Shearer?s Spotlight with us. This feature will include three things ?sometimes related, sometimes not!? that Jim is obsessing over this week. Be sure to tune into the Top 20 countdown when it airs on VH1 at 9 a.m. ET/PT tomorrow morning. Oh, and don’t forget, our brand new Top 20 site makes voting for your favorite videos easier than ever!

Last Saturday night, we lost rock n? roll icon Clarence Clemons. Immediately following his death, tributes from around the world poured forth on the Internet.

If you really think about it, the mark he left on popular music is somewhat unbelievable; Clemons was best known for his work in Bruce Springsteen?s E Street Band, where he wasn?t a frontman, didn?t play lead guitar, pluck a bass, or even sit on a throne behind a drum kit. He was a saxophonist.

Let me say that again: He was a saxophonist!

Unless you?re hanging out with fans of smooth jazz or ska music, saxophone players usually aren?t revered as music royalty?especially in mainstream rock n? roll?but Clarence Clemons was, and always will be.

Here are three reasons why I think the (appropriately nicknamed) ?Big Man? was the man:

1) He Embodied His Instrument

As a kid growing up in the eighties, whenever I heard the word ?saxophone,? an image of Clarence Clemons came to mind. Decades later, not much has changed; mention the woodwind instrument by name and I automatically envision a tall figure wearing a pair of sunglasses, hugging his instrument, and being flanked by a smiling Bruce Springsteen.

2) He Gave A Face To Side Players In a Band

In rock music, if you play guitar, bass, or drums, there?s a good chance?at some point in your career?you?ll get hit in the face with a flying pair of panties from an adoring fan. If you play the keyboard, saxophone, or glockenspiel, there?s a good chance that fans of your band don?t even know your name.

Because Clarence Clemons was so cool, so good on his instrument, and had such a presence on stage?as I kid?I dreamed of starting a band that included a saxophone player in the identical mold of you know who. (The proof is in this notebook drawing that I’m guessing I doodled when I was around 10 years old.)

3) Legacy

When the world?s biggest pop star?working on her most anticipated album to date?is calling you from the studio and asking on bended knee to add some saxophone flourishes to not one, not two, but three songs, you have a musical legacy.

Clemons busted out his trademark sax on Lady Gaga?s ?The Edge of Glory? and ?Hair,? and when she wanted some on the title track of her new album, ?Born This Way,? Clemons coolly informed Gaga that it didn?t need any. When you?re the ?Big Man? you?re allowed to say no to the world?s biggest pop star (although he did say yes to appearing in her latest music video).

[Photo Credit: An approximately 10 year-old Jim Shearer]

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