NEW YORK (AP) — Clarence Clemons, 69, the larger-than-life saxophone player for the E Street Band who was one of the key influences in Bruce Springsteen’s life and music through four decades, died June 18, 2011, after suffering a stroke.
Springsteen called the loss “immeasurable.”
“We are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years,” Springsteen said on his website. “He was my great friend, my partner and 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.”
Known as the Big Man for his imposing 6-foot-5-inch, 270-plus pound frame, Clemons and his ever-present saxophone spent much of his life with The Boss, and his booming saxophone solos became a signature sound for the E Street Band on many key songs, including “Jungleland,” a triumphant solo he spent 16 hours perfecting, and “Born To Run.”
In recent years, Clemons had been slowed by health woes. He endured major spinal surgery in January 2010 and, at the 2009 Super Bowl, Clemons rose from a wheelchair to perform with Springsteen after double knee replacement surgery.
An original member — and the oldest one — of the E Street Band, Clemons also performed with the Grateful Dead, the Jerry Garcia Band, and Ringo Starr’s All Star Band. He recorded with a wide range of artists including Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison and Jackson Browne. He also had his own band called the Temple of Soul.
Born in Norfolk, Va., Clemons was the grandson of a Baptist minister and began playing the saxophone when he was 9.
“Nobody played instruments in my family. My father got that bug and said he wants his son to play saxophone. I wanted an electric train for Christmas, but he got me a saxophone. I flipped out,” he said.
He was influenced by R&B artists such as King Curtis and Junior Walker. But his dreams originally focused on football. He played for Maryland State College and was to try out for the Cleveland Browns when he got in a bad car accident that made him retire from the sport for good and turn to music instead.
In 1971, Clemons was playing with Norman Seldin & the Joyful Noise when he heard about rising singer-songwriter named Springsteen, who was from New Jersey. The two hit it off immediately, and Clemons officially joined the E Street Band in 1973 with the release of the debut album “Greetings from Asbury Park.” Clemons emerged as one of the most critical members of the E Street Band for different reasons. His burly frame would have been intimidating if not for his bright smile and endearing personality that charmed fans. But it was his musical contributions on tenor sax that would come to define the E Street Band sound.
In a 2009 interview, Clemons described his deep bond with Springsteen, saying: “It’s the most passion that you have without sex.”
“It’s love. It’s two men — two strong, very virile men — finding that space in life where they can let go enough of their masculinity to feel the passion of love and respect and trust,” he added.
Clemons continued to perform with the band for the next 12 years, contributing his big, distinctive big sound to the albums,
“The Wild, The Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle,” “Born to Run,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town, “The River” and “Born in the USA.” During breaks, Clemons continued with solo projects, including a 1985 vocal duet with Browne on the single “You’re a Friend of Mine” and saxophone work on Franklin’s 1985 hit single “Freeway of Love.” He released his own albums, toured, and even sang on some songs. Clemons also made several television and movie appearances over the years. He is the second member of the E Street Band to pass away: In 2008, keyboardist Danny Federici, 58, died of melanoma.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Carl Gardner, original lead singer of the R&B group the Coasters, died June 12, 2011, following a long bout with congestive heart failure and vascular dementia. He was 83.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, The Coasters had a string of hits in the late 1950s, including “Searchin’,” “Poison Ivy” and “Young Blood.” Their single “Yakety Yak” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 following its 1958 release. It also spent seven weeks as the No. 1 rhythm and blues song.
The Coasters have continued to perform over the decades, with multiple changes to the lineup. Gardner has always held the rights to the group’s name, and his son, Carl Gardner Jr., took over as lead singer when his father retired in 2005.
The elder Gardner was born in Tyler, Texas, and moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s. He became a founding member of The Coasters in 1955. The Coasters had 14 songs on the R&B charts, and eight of them crossed over to the pop Top 40, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their hits were written by the famed team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and covered by bands including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Andrew Gold, a singer, musician and composer whose songs included the 1977 hit “Lonely Boy,” died June 3, 2011. He was 59.
Gold was a multi-instrumental player whose popular singles included “Thank You for Being a Friend” and the British hit “Never Let Her Slip Away.” He was in Linda Rondstadt’s band and arranged songs for and performed on several Rondstadt albums, including “Heart Like a Wheel.” He also did session work for artists such as James Taylor and Carly Simon.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fayrene “Faye” Treadwell, 84, who as The Drifters’ manager was one of the first African-American female managers in show business, died in late May 2011 after a long illness, according to a statement from her daughter, Tina. No other details were provided.
After the 1967 death of her musician-manager husband, George Treadwell, she gained control and managed The Drifters, the R&B group best known for such hits as “This Magic Moment,” “Under the Boardwalk” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.”
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fred Steiner, a television and film music composer who penned the theme for the “Perry Mason” TV series and was one of the composers of the Oscar-nominated score for “The Color Purple” died of natural causes June 23, 2011, at his home in Mexico. He was 88.
One of the busiest composers in Hollywood in the 1950s and ’60s, he crafted music for “The Twilight Zone,” “Star Trek” and other TV series. Steiner also provided music for “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” in 1983.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jeff Conaway, who played swaggering Kenickie in the movie musical “Grease” and publicly battled drug and alcohol addiction on “Celebrity Rehab,” died May 27, 2011. He was 60.
Conaway had played guitar in a 1960s band called 3 1/2 that was the opening act for groups including Herman’s Hermits, The Young Rascals and The Animals. Conaway left the music business because of drugs; he was convinced he’d die within a year if he maintained the rock and roll lifestyle. He was born Oct. 5, 1950, to an actor, producer and agent father and an actress mother. He made his Broadway debut in 1960 in “All the Way Home.”