One of the most mythical figures in music history would have turned 80 years old today. E Street Band saxophonist and longtime Bruce Springsteen sidekick Clarence Clemons passed away at the age of 69 June 18, 2011.

According to the New York Times, the cause of death was complications of a stroke he suffered after undergoing surgery.

At 69 years old, Clarence Clemons had so much more life to live. Just over a month before dying, Clemons lent his saxophone prowess to a pop star still on her rise to stardom. He performed on "The Edge of Glory" and "Hair" on Lady Gaga's 2011 album "Born This Way." "The Edge of Glory" became a top 5 hit.

Clarence Clemons had a profound impact on the people around him, including Bruce Springsteen.


When Clemons passed away, Springsteen released this statement:

“With Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”

When the time eventually came to replace Clarence Clemons in the band, Bruce Springsteen recruited someone from his former sidekick's bloodline: His nephew Jake Clemons.

Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band Performs At The Los Angeles Sports Arena
Getty Images

Over the course of Clarence Clemons' illustrious career, he offered up some of the most timeless saxophone solos you could ever imagine. Here are my 11 favorite.

  • 11

    "Bobby Jean" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: 1984

    One of the saddest but most upbeat songs in Springsteen's catalog. Clarence's solo at the end drives home the feeling of loss and nostalgia.

  • 10

    "Ramrod" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: 1984

    Clarence figures out a way to take a song that's already a rocker to the next level.

  • 9

    "You're a Friend of Mine" by Clarence Clemons and Jackson Browne: 1985

    Clarence also shares lead vocals on this track. The lyrics to this song were also on his prayer card at his funeral.

  • 8

    "Savin' Up" by Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers: 1983

    A clear standout from one of Clarence's side-projects.

  • 7

    "The Promised Land" by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: 1978

    The whole band shines on this fan favorite. But the dueling saxophone and harmonica towards the end is what keeps the people coming back.

  • 6

    "Land of Hope and Dreams" by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: 2012

    The official studio version of this song wasn't released until 2012, but the song was a staple at Bruce Springsteen concerts dating back to the '90s. While piecing together the album "Wrecking Ball," producer Ron Aniello used a live recording of Clarence's saxophone solo for the song and inserted it into the recording, because he had already passed away.

  • 5

    "The Ties That Bind" by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: 1980

    An excellent way to kick off a double-album.

  • 4

    "The Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga: 2011

    One of the last projects Clarence Clemons ever worked on. He is also in the music video. Lady Gaga cites Bruce Springsteen's music as a huge influence for her album "Born This Way." It should be no surprise that Clarence's saxophone fits on this song like a glove.

  • 3

    "Badlands" by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: 1978

    The first time I ever saw Bruce Springsteen live, he and the band opened with this. Once Clarence hit the first note, it became an out-of-body experience.

  • 2

    "Independence Day" by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: 1980

    Perhaps one of Bruce Springsteen's saddest songs ever released. The theme, a drifting relationship between a son and his father, is capped off with a heartbreaking saxophone solo.

  • 1

    "Jungleland" by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: 1975

    You had to have seen this one coming. No surprise. While recording the landmark "Born To Run" album, Clarence spent sixteen hours playing and replaying every note of this "in order to satisfy Bruce's bat-eared attention to sonic detail." When Clarence took center-stage for a solo, it sounded like the whole world could hear him. That could not be more true with "Jungleland."

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