Thursday, June 30, 2011

This Is Why He's The Boss

If you don't feel the urge to stand up and shout, if this doesn't make you feel good, if for the next 12 minutes you don't find yourself being transported to another dimension, I'd change medication.

(h/t Geno)

In case you haven't read this already, the following, taken from, is worth your time.

This is a slightly revised version of the eulogy I delivered for Clarence at his memorial. I'd like to thank all our fans and friends who have comforted us over the past difficult weeks.

I've been sitting here listening to everyone talk about Clarence and staring at that photo of the two of us right there. It's a picture of Scooter and The Big Man, people who we were sometimes. As you can see in this particular photo, Clarence is admiring his muscles and I'm pretending to be nonchalant while leaning upon him. I leaned on Clarence a lot; I made a career out of it in some ways.

Those of us who shared Clarence's life, shared with him his love and his confusion. Though "C" mellowed with age, he was always a wild and unpredictable ride. Today I see his sons Nicky, Chuck, Christopher and Jarod sitting here and I see in them the reflection of a lot of C's qualities. I see his light, his darkness, his sweetness, his roughness, his gentleness, his anger, his brilliance, his handsomeness, and his goodness. But, as you boys know your pop was a not a day at the beach. "C" lived a life where he did what he wanted to do and he let the chips, human and otherwise, fall where they may. Like a lot of us your pop was capable of great magic and also of making quite an amazing mess. This was just the nature of your daddy and my beautiful friend. Clarence's unconditional love, which was very real, came with a lot of conditions. Your pop was a major project and always a work in progress. "C" never approached anything linearly, life never proceeded in a straight line. He never went A... B.... C.... D. It was always A... J.... C.... Z... Q... I....! That was the way Clarence lived and made his way through the world. I know that can lead to a lot of confusion and hurt, but your father also carried a lot of love with him, and I know he loved each of you very very dearly.

It took a village to take care of Clarence Clemons. Tina, I'm so glad you're here. Thank you for taking care of my friend, for loving him. Victoria, you've been a loving, kind and caring wife to Clarence and you made a huge difference in his life at a time when the going was not always easy. To all of "C's" vast support network, names too numerous to mention, you know who you are and we thank you. Your rewards await you at the pearly gates. My pal was a tough act but he brought things into your life that were unique and when he turned on that love light, it illuminated your world. I was lucky enough to stand in that light for almost 40 years, near Clarence's heart, in the Temple of Soul.

So a little bit of history: from the early days when Clarence and I traveled together, we'd pull up to the evening's lodgings and within minutes "C" would transform his room into a world of his own. Out came the colored scarves to be draped over the lamps, the scented candles, the incense, the patchouli oil, the herbs, the music, the day would be banished, entertainment would come and go, and Clarence the Shaman would reign and work his magic, night after night. Clarence's ability to enjoy Clarence was incredible. By 69, he'd had a good run, because he'd already lived about 10 lives, 690 years in the life of an average man. Every night, in every place, the magic came flying out of C's suitcase. As soon as success allowed, his dressing room would take on the same trappings as his hotel room until a visit there was like a trip to a sovereign nation that had just struck huge oil reserves. "C" always knew how to live. Long before Prince was out of his diapers, an air of raunchy mysticism ruled in the Big Man's world. I'd wander in from my dressing room, which contained several fine couches and some athletic lockers, and wonder what I was doing wrong! Somewhere along the way all of this was christened the Temple of Soul; and "C" presided smilingly over its secrets, and its pleasures. Being allowed admittance to the Temple's wonders was a lovely thing.

As a young child my son Sam became enchanted with the Big Man... no surprise. To a child Clarence was a towering fairy tale figure, out of some very exotic storybook. He was a dreadlocked giant, with great hands and a deep mellifluous voice sugared with kindness and regard. And... to Sammy, who was just a little white boy, he was deeply and mysteriously black. In Sammy's eyes, "C" must have appeared as all of the African continent, shot through with American cool, rolled into one welcoming and loving figure. So... Sammy decided to pass on my work shirts and became fascinated by Clarence's suits and his royal robes. He declined a seat in dad's van and opted for "C's" stretch limousine, sitting by his side on the slow cruise to the show. He decided dinner in front of the hometown locker just wouldn't do, and he'd saunter up the hall and disappear into the Temple of Soul.

Of course, also enchanted was Sam's dad, from the first time I saw my pal striding out of the shadows of a half empty bar in Asbury Park, a path opening up before him; here comes my brother, here comes my sax man, my inspiration, my partner, my lifelong friend. Standing next to Clarence was like standing next to the baddest ass on the planet. You were proud, you were strong, you were excited and laughing with what might happen, with what together, you might be able to do. You felt like no matter what the day or the night brought, nothing was going to touch you. Clarence could be fragile but he also emanated power and safety, and in some funny way we became each other's protectors; I think perhaps I protected "C" from a world where it still wasn't so easy to be big and black. Racism was ever present and over the years together, we saw it. Clarence's celebrity and size did not make him immune. I think perhaps "C" protected me from a world where it wasn't always so easy to be an insecure, weird and skinny white boy either. But, standing together we were badass, on any given night, on our turf, some of the baddest asses on the planet. We were united, we were strong, we were righteous, we were unmovable, we were funny, we were corny as hell and as serious as death itself. And we were coming to your town to shake you and to wake you up. Together, we told an older, richer story about the possibilities of friendship that transcended those I'd written in my songs and in my music. Clarence carried it in his heart. It was a story where the Scooter and the Big Man not only busted the city in half, but we kicked ass and remade the city, shaping it into the kind of place where our friendship would not be such an anomaly. And that... that's what I'm gonna miss. The chance to renew that vow and double down on that story on a nightly basis, because that is something, that is the thing that we did together... the two of us. Clarence was big, and he made me feel, and think, and love, and dream big. How big was the Big Man? Too fucking big to die. And that's just the facts. You can put it on his grave stone, you can tattoo it over your heart. Accept it... it's the New World.

Clarence doesn't leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die.

So, I'll miss my friend, his sax, the force of nature his sound was, his glory, his foolishness, his accomplishments, his face, his hands, his humor, his skin, his noise, his confusion, his power, his peace. But his love and his story, the story that he gave me, that he whispered in my ear, that he allowed me to tell... and that he gave to you... is gonna carry on. I'm no mystic, but the undertow, the mystery and power of Clarence and my friendship leads me to believe we must have stood together in other, older times, along other rivers, in other cities, in other fields, doing our modest version of god's work... work that's still unfinished. So I won't say goodbye to my brother, I'll simply say, see you in the next life, further on up the road, where we will once again pick up that work, and get it done.

Big Man, thank you for your kindness, your strength, your dedication, your work, your story. Thanks for the miracle... and for letting a little white boy slip through the side door of the Temple of Soul.


I'm gonna leave you today with a quote from the Big Man himself, which he shared on the plane ride home from Buffalo, the last show of the last tour. As we celebrated in the front cabin congratulating one another and telling tales of the many epic shows, rocking nights and good times we'd shared, "C" sat quietly, taking it all in, then he raised his glass, smiled and said to all gathered, "This could be the start of something big."
Love you, "C".


stu said...

thanks for printing this Sal much appreciated on many levels.

Troy said...

Read this on Bruce's website the other day. Made me very sad and made me smile at the same time. Thanks for sharing.

Les said...

Sweet, I don't need to change medication. That's a relief.

steves said...

He's a class act, that Scooter.

Thanks again, Sal.

Paul in Brentwood said...

Hopping on the Bruce wagon for the third time in the early 00s, I bought this DVD and LoD was the icing on the cake. Part rock and roll messenger, part mock-manic street preacher, part stand up comic - Bruce is King. Thanks, Sal.
My most poignant Clarence moment - 4/5/08 in San Jose - a radio competition would choose the "audible" for the night and "Fire" won. "Fire"? Even Bruce mocked it and yet played the Romeo and Juliet act with C. throughout the second verse and with the VERY pregnant pause before the third verse (nearly a minute of silence, with Bruce and C. wrapped in a passionate embrace), the guys looking deep into each other's eyes and doing all they could to not lose it, there was a slight kiss and an explosion of sound as the band ripped into the rest of the song. What had always been a throwaway for years became one of the best parts of the show and now a memory I'll hold dear forever. Thanks, Big Man, and Sal, for sharing.

soundsource said...

ok i'm standing and shouting and people are looking in the window.....also I never noticed that little stevie is playing the lick from satisfaction for most of the song and actually the underpinnings of the rhythm are satisfaction......and I'm still standing but now i'm typing and shouting

soundsource said...

now i'm running in place and throwing my hands in the air and people are pointing at my window

Noam Sane said...

that was pretty remarkable

JB said...

CC passed while Mom was in the hospital, losing a long battle to keep her left leg. She was there for a week while they tried to save it, and during that week she spiraled down, down, down. By the time they gave up and scheduled the amputation she was so weak she could barely talk or move, and she was delirious.. they call it "sundowning"... from the pain meds and the pain. We weren't sure she'd make it through the surgery, or be able climb out of the psychological hole she'd fallen into even if she did.

A day or so after she appeared to be out of the woods I left the hospital and went home for a break. The dog was overdue for a walk so I grabbed the iPod and we set out. The 2nd song to shuffle up was a boot of one of those epic performances of Light of Day. ("Boston Tea Party 8/99")

As the song progressed, all of the pent-up emotion of the previous days came rushing up to the surface. I found myself walking down the street laughing and crying simultaneously. "Life... RIGHT NOW!!" sounded pretty damn good, and it was no joke.

I'm happy to report that Mom, who introduced us to great jazz, folk, and pop... who welcomed rock and roll into her home... who got me a snare and a cymbal for Christmas when my drumming on everything in the house got out of hand... who paid for guitar lessons before I was big enough to hold the thing... who can't carry a tune but loves music as much as anyone I know ... that Mom is back with us now, with a gleam in here eye, minus that goddammed ungrateful limb.

It turned out that when I was leaning over her, softly singing along with those gentle tunes from Willie's Stardust LP to try to calm her down, well, she was just around the corner from the light of day.

Mom will turn 85 next month, and perhaps she'll be out of rehab in time to celebrate it at home. I'll always love her (hey, she's my Mom) but I'll always be in debt to her for fostering my appreciation for wondrous, life-enhancing music.

My 5 year old keeps me from getting out for many shows these days, but in the next month or so I'm getting lucky. I'm catching Lucinda Williams, my old fave Leo Kottke, the admittedly overpriced (but worth it to me) Steely Dan tour, and best of all, Elvis and the Spinning Wheel from the 10th row, with a bunch of Costello junkies I've known since the late 70s. Maybe one of us will get to give the wheel a spin.

So I'll say it again, and not for the last time: Thanks Mom.

Sal Nunziato said...


Thanks for sharing that with us.

Gene Oberto said...


Thanks for those thoughts. Much of what you said could be said about my Mom, who introduced me to the wonders of reading and listening to what good music can be...she talked to her Dad in the "sundowning" of her life before going to meet him.

Indeed, for all the clowning, that line, "I CAN promise you life....RIGHT NOW!" is very special because he and the boys do....each and every time they hit the boards.

Springsteen, a peer and a guy from where I grew up, has always been the paradigm for what can be accomplished when you never surrender your dream and your faith in it.

Of course, a boatload of talent always helps....

steve simels said...

Sal --

Many thanks for posting this. Words fail me....

Rushbo said...

To JB... thank you. I lost my mom a few years ago after a long illness and it took her passing to make me realise just what she gave me...the ability to see the ridiculous in everything, love, softness and music. And to Mr S... I can't say I'm a fan, but his love for Clarence is so evident in his beautifully measured eulogy that it makes me think I owe him another listen. And thanks for sharing, Sal.

Anything Should Happen said...

I don't often get emotional, I'm not that sort of person really, but I have to admit that I was touched by some of the stuff on here.

My dad, step mum and two step sisters died when I was 17 in an air crash.

It's not something I mention often, part of it because It's not a topic of conversation that needs mentioning or comes up.

However this and the Buddy Holly brought back memories for me.

Buddy Holly was introduced to me at a very young age and music can be a great healer.

Memories from my life are jogged by music.

I was staying at my nan's whilst the family were away, due to taking two A Levels a year early.

When the news came through, I was listening to Radio 1's Round Table and two of my heroes Andy Partridge and Ian Hunter were on it. That stays with me.

I also remember something really trivial now but that shows the power of music and the wonder of my dad.

I was 16 and I'd been going out with a girl all through school and surprisingly she dumped me.

I was heartbroken and moping about.

My dad had a great chat with me and then took me over to my growing record collection.

He pointed to the records and said they'll never leave you, every one is like a photograph, you'll remember when you bought them and the times around it.

He was right.

Great thread Sal and for someone who doesn't get emotional, this post helps me as did the thread.

Thank you.

elizabeth said...

These posts show Burning Wood goes beyond a simple discussion of musical taste. Thanks for sticking with it.

Anonymous said...

I, too, will be remaining on my current medication.

Thank you for a most amazing video, and thank you to those that commented and touched my heart.

Leon said...

Wow... amazing. AMAZING!! What show is this performance from? Must - get - immediately --