Clarence Clemons, Bruce Springsteen's longtime saxophone player and a legend in the music industry, died Saturday from complications following a stroke he suffered about a week ago.
Clemons' sax has been one of the most defining elements of the E Street Band's sound. He has suffered from numerous ailments over the last few years. He had double knee surgery and even had to perform from a wheelchair at one point.
But his health seemed to be improving. Just last month, he performed with Lady Gaga on the season finale of "American Idol."
Clemons scored a Top 20 hit in 1985 with the song "You're a Friend of Mine," a duet with Jackson Browne that appears on Clemons' album "Hero." Clemons was 69 years old.
The Newark Star-Ledger reports that: "Springsteen's oft-told story of his initial meeting with Clemons felt Biblical: with a lightning storm raging outside, the Big Man tore the door off an Asbury Park club, strode onstage, and made magic. Springsteen would later immortalize this meeting in "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out," a song on "Born to Run.""
Clemons was born in Norfolk, Va., to a Baptist minister who had no love for rock 'n' roll, The Star-Ledger reports. However, he got a saxophone at age 9, and when a car accident ruined his budding football career after college, he dedicated himself to music.
In a statement following news of Clemons' death, Springsteen said:
"Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the oppurtunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. 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."