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Video: E Street’s ‘Big Man’ remembered

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    >>> sad news this morning from the world of music. clarence clemons the popular sax man for bruce springsteen 's e street band . the most popular member of the band and played with a passion unmatched by most. lee cowan looks back at the life of clarence clemons .

    >> reporter: he was on clarence clemons broad shoulders that the boss set music history . the big man, big notes were the pillar of the e street band . his sax helping weave his blue collar in jazz and talk. clemons was known for a lot. jovial and charismatic stage presence made the 6'4", 250 pound saxophonist truly larger than life . born in norfolk, virginia, to a baptist preacher, clemons started playing the sax at just 9 years old. one of the original members of springsteen's e street band . he walked off the street into a new jersey bar. clemons recently recalled during an interview.

    >> we fell in love and that's still there. it's still there.

    >> reporter: in a statement, springsteen said, 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. as he got older, clemons was plagued by debilitating ailments from back problems to knee ailments. he kept playing. he was always in demand. everyone from jackson browne to lady gaga . the sound was unmistaken. last week, a stroke sent the big man to a palm beach hospital and he never left. at 69, he is being remembered for a style of playing that was almost spiritual and for a friendship that never waned, even in the rocky world of rock 'n' roll. lee cowan, nbc news, los angeles .

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Photos: The magic of Bruce Springsteen

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  1. Wrecking Ball Tour

    Bruce Springsteen performs on stage on May 27, 2012, in Cologne, Germany. (Peter Wafzig / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Family man

    Bruce Springsteen and his wife, Patti Scialfa, watch their daughter, Jessica Springsteen, compete at Windsor Horse Show on May 12, 2011, in Windsor, England. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'Sexy and I Know It'

    Bruce Springsteen, left, and Jimmy Fallon sing "Sexy and I Know It" on March 2, 2012. (Lloyd Bishop / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Rockin' the Grammy Awards

    Bruce Springsteen, left, and Steven Van Zandt perform onstage at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on Feb. 12, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Folk heroes

    Musicians Joan Baez, left, Springsteen, center, and Pete Seeger appear onstage at the Clearwater Benefit Concert celebrating Seeger's 90th Birthday at Madison Square Garden in New York on May 3, 2009. (Bryan Bedder / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Score one for The Boss

    Springsteen and the E Street Band perform during the Super Bowl XLIII halftime show during the game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 1, 2009. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. National pride

    Springsteen is joined by a choir as he performs "The Rising" in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial" on the National Mall in Washington on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Golden boys

    Mickey Rourke, left, poses with his Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion picture-Drama with Springsteen, winner of Best original Song-Motion Picture for "The Wrestler" at the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills on Jan. 11, 2009. (Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Another hopeful

    Then-Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama hugs Springsteen during a campaign rally at the Cleveland Mall on Nov. 2, 2008. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rock the Plaza

    Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and the rest of the E Street Band perform in Rockefeller Plaza on the TODAY show on Sept. 28, 2007. (Brad Barket / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Center of attention

    Springsteen, center, performs in the final number of an all-star tribute to his music at New York's Carnegie Hall in April 2007. Funds raised from the concert were used to support music education programs. (Jeff Christensen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Rock union

    Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa have three children together, Evan James, Jessica Rae and Sam Ryan. Scialfa has recorded two solo albums, "Rumble Doll" in 1993 and "23rd Street Lullaby" in 2004. (Desiree Navarro / WpN) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Stories to tell

    Springsteen taped an acoustic performance for VH-1's Storytellers series at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, N.J., in September 2007. (Kevin Mazur / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. On the trail

    In 2004, Springsteen and the E Street Band joined the "Vote for Change" tour, which held concerts in swing states to raise money for MoveOn.org and encourage people to vote President George W. Bush out of office. "No Surrender" became the primary theme song for Democratic preisdential candidate Sen. John Kerry’s campaign. (Luke Frazza / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Ready for 'Magic'

    Springsteen, third from right, performed with members of the E Street Band at Shea Stadium in New York on Oct. 1, 2003. He was joined by, from left, Clarence Clemons, Max Weinberg, Patti Scialfa and Steve Van Zandt. The band released "Magic" on Oct. 2 that year. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. 9/11 tribute

    At the live broadcast of "America: A Tribute to Heroes," which benefited victims of 9/11, Springsteen opened the show with "My City in Ruins," a song originally written about Asbury Park, N.J. The 9/11 attacks prompted Springsteen and the E Street Band to release their first studio album in 18 years, "The Rising." The band kicked off "The Rising" tour on the TODAY show. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Hall of Famer

    In 1999, Springsteen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That same year, the E Street Band reunited for a reunion tour, which included a record run of 15 sold-out shows at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. (Kevin Mazur / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Charitable effort

    In 1985, Springsteen joined 44 other artists to record "We Are the World." The song was a No. 1 hit in both the United States and the United Kingdom and profits benefited the USA for Africa Foundation. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Four score

    In 1995, Springsteen picked up four Grammy awards for Song of the Year, Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or TV for "Streets of Philadelphia." (Dan Groshong / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The Big Man and The Boss

    Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons perform at the Oakland Colisium in Oakland, Calif., on Sept. 19, 1985. (Jon Sievert / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Five and out

    Springsteen met then-model Julianne Phillips in 1984 and the pair married in 1985. The union, however, was short-lived. Springsteen and Phillips divorced in 1990, and he married E Street Band backup singer Patti Scialfa in 1991. (Ron Galella / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Ax man

    Springsteen most often plays the guitar and harmonica on his albums, but he also knows how to play the mandolin, organ, piano and percussion. (Lennox McLendon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. On the 'Edge'

    A legal battle kept Springsteen and the E Street Band from recording for two years following "Born to Run," but in 1978 the band released "Darkness on the Edge of Town," which many critics point to as a turning point in his musical evolution. That album was followed by "The River," a double album that included Springsteen’s first Top 10 single, "Hungry Heart." (Rex Features via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Off and running

    A young Springsteen performs at New York's Bottom Line in 1975. In the summer of that year, Springsteen's career was crumbling and he was about to get dumped by his label. Then "Born to Run" was released in August and it was a rock 'n' roll masterpiece that assumed near-mythic proportion. Thirty years later a special anniversary edition of the album was released. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. 'Greetings,' fans

    Springsteen signed with Columbia records in 1972 and released "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J." in 1973 to great critical acclaim. It wasn’t until 1975’s "Born to Run," however, that the band found its first commercial success. (Richard McCaffrey / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Jersey roots

    Bruce Springsteen grew up in Freehold, N.J., but is most often associated with the shore town of Asbury Park, where he often played in his early years with future members of the E Street Band and first developed a cult following. Here he performs at the Electric Ballrooom in Atlanta on Aug. 22, 1975. (Tom Hill / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
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