Mar. 12-18: Bruce Springsteen Keeps Saxophonist Clarence Clemons’s Legacy Alive

Billy Johnson, Jr.
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This week, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's album, "Wrecking Ball," debuted at No. 1 on the charts, knocking Adele's "21" out of the top position it has held for more than 20 weeks.

Unfortunately, former group saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died of a stroke last June, isn't here to celebrate with his bandmates.

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But Springsteen is determined to keep alive the legacy of his good friend of 40 years. When playing Austin City Limits Live at the South By Southwest Music Conference and Festival Thursday, Springsteen paid homage to Clemons via a special new member of the touring band, Clemon's nephew, Jake Clemons, who is also a famed sax player who has been a member of Swell Season and performed with the likes of Eddie Vedder and Will Smith.

Jake Clemons plays Clarence Clemons saxophone solo at 8:40 mark in video below:

When performing "Badlands," the junior Clemons filled in for the Big Man's solo near the end of the song. In January, Springsteen announced that Jake, who has played with the E Street Band in the past, would be joining Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" tour.

In this week's cover story in Rolling Stone, Springsteen said he was comforted by having saxophonists Jake and Eddie Manion on the tour. Jake was inspired to begin playing after seeing his uncle on stage with the E Street Band in 1988. "Jake traveled with us on the last tour for quite a while with 'C,'" Springsteen told Rolling Stone. "I'm feeling really comfortable with how it's going."

Springsteen said he felt an instant connection to Clarence Clemons when they first met in 1971 at Asbury. "Actually, the first time I asked him to join the band, he said he already had a job," he said. Then, Clemons was playing with Norman Seldin and the Joyful Noyze.

After Springsteen landed a deal with Columbia Records and was asked to record more radio-friendly songs, he approached Clemons again. Clemons obliged and performed on the last two recordings for Springsteen's 1973 debut, "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J."

Clemons, however, was not able to fully contribute to Springsteen's latest album, "Wrecking Ball." When Springsteen called Clemons to work on the album, Clemons wasn't feeling well. "The week before he died, I called him to come in and record on his way back from Los Angeles, where he'd worked with Lady Gaga," he said. "He was having problems with the feeling in his hand. He was worried and asked if he could go home to Florida first and have it checked out. It was the only time Clarence passed on a recording session, so I said sure, we'd catch it later down the road. A week later, he was in the hospital from the stroke."

Springsteen spent a week at Clemons's bedside, though he never fully regained consciousness. After the funeral, Springsteen returned home and resumed working on "Wrecking Ball." Producer Ron Aniello figured out a way to incorporate Clemon's work on the album. Aniello pulled live takes from Clemons and added them to the record. "He played me 'Land of Hope and Dreams,' and when the solo section hit, Clarence's sax filled the room. I cried," he said. "So he's there, through a little technical magic…but he's there."

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Springsteen said Clemons was more than just a friend, calling them a duo. "Losing Clarence was like losing the rain," he said. "It was like losing some huge part of your own psychic construction — suddenly it's just gone, everything feels less."

Springsteen's remembrance of Clemons isn't the only news this week about old friends. The Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards discuss their past differences in a forthcoming documentary on the band's 50 year career. Also, Rihanna explained why she invited ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, who was charged for assaulting her in 2009, to appear on her latest single "Birthday Cake."

Arguably, the most shocking news this week occurred on "American Idol." Not only was contestant Jermaine Jones disqualified for having outstanding warrants, his exit interview with the producers appeared as a segment on the show.

But the real action is taking place in Austin, where music fans descended to see thousands of bands of every genre play at the South By Southwest Music Conference and Festival.


1) Soul Mates -- Bruce Springsteen remembers late E Band member Clarence Clemons.

2) Mess With Texas -- Thousands of bands play SXSW conference in Austin.

3) Ultimate Elimination --  "American Idol" contestant Jermaine Jones is disqualified.

4) Forgive And Forget -- Rihanna defends collaborating with Chris Brown.

5) Sticks And Stones
-- Keith Richards apologizes to Mick Jagger.