3 Minute Record

"We learned more from a three minute record baby than we ever learned in school..." -from No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen

Filtering by Tag: Deaths

R.I.P. Clarence Clemons, 1942-2011

RIP Clarence Big Man Clemons

When your music is bigger than life it takes a Big Man to convey it to the world. For Bruce Springsteen, his longtime saxophone player for the E Street Band, Clarence Clemons was that man. Sadly, Clemons died last Saturday at age 69 from the complications of a stroke.

A week ago Sunday, the sad news came that Clemons had a massive stroke at his home in Singer Island, FL, and the thoughts of having to write something like this came to mind. However, that prospect made it difficult to ponder when the person is still struggling for their life and their music meant so much to you. However, when Saturday evening the official word came from my fellow 3 Minute Record contributor Bart Darnell via text message that Clemons had passed the reality fully sank in.

The next morning as a slightly surreal Father's Day started I began to write this piece, but alas could not finish needing more time to gather my thoughts. Later that day as I listened to the music I found I could not sing along to those songs so ingrained in my head. I could only listen for any shred of sound that I could gleaned from Clemons' horn. Nevertheless, I knew that if I did not finish this piece I wouldn't be moving on.

Clarence Anicholas Clemons was born on January 11, 1942 in Norfolk, VA the son of a fish market owner and the grandson of a Southern Baptist preacher. Receiving an alto saxophone for Christmas at age 9, later switching to tenor sax, Clemons took up music just as rock 'n roll was starting in the early 1950s, beginning a lifelong love affair with the genre. 

Inspired by Elvis Presley and growing up on '50s and '60s rock 'n roll, Bruce Springsteen was a young, inspiring singer/songwriter in the early 1970s making a name for himself in the boardwalk clubs of Asbury Park, NJ. The oft-repeated story of how the E Street Band fully solidified starts like the prototypical opening line to a novel when once upon a dark stormy night in 1971, Clemons quite literally busted into Springsteen's life. As the 6' 4" 250 pound former Maryland State College football player, Clemons entered the club where Springsteen was playing as a raging storm blew the door off its hinges leaving the imposing shadow in the doorway. Springsteen invited the saxophone player up on stage to jam creating a bond that lasted until Clemons death. Clemons brought his soulful saxophone playing and signature sound to what would become bedrock of the E Street Band.

Springsteen summed his thoughts about what Clemons brought to his music in the classic "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" from his 1975 breakout album, Born To Run.

"Well, a change was made in time and the big man joined the band/From the coastline to the city all the little pretties raised their hands/I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh/When the Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half."

To this day, Springsteen admits that he does not know what the title of the song means or refers to, but clearly he knew - even at that early time of his career - that having Clemons in the band was very special.

For Clemons his difference in age with the rest of the E Street Band seemed to make him the older brother - a mentor of sorts. While Springsteen, "The Boss," may have taught Clemons the importance of dedication to the artistic craft; Clemons taught Springsteen how to be a big man.

Clemons tenor saxophone added depth to Springsteen's cinematic lyrics invoking full color to the stark imagery the singer experienced all around him. The sound of Clemons sax perfectly suited the overall feel Springsteen achieved with his music. Just as John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter provided their own stamp on the Jazz music of their band leader Miles Davis, Clemons provided a soulful quality to the Rock 'n Roll music played by the E Street Band.

"You can hide 'neath the covers and study your pain/Make crosses for your lovers, throw roses in the rain/Waste your summer praying in vain for a savior rise from these streets."

Certainly, the 25-year-old Bruce Springsteen did not intend this lyric from his now classic song "Thunder Road" to mourn his saxophone player, yet no saviors will be rising from the streets to match Clemons sound. The Boss can't fully replace what Clemons brought to the band both on and off the stage. While Springsteen seems to leave the door open for future E Street Band shows with the last line of his public statement following Clemons' death "His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band," what the future truly holds for Springsteen and the E Street Band is uncertain, but the memories of the music will always be there.

"For the ones who had the notion, the notion deep inside/That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive/I wanna find one face that ain't lookin' through me/I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these Badlands"

Whatever the future may hold we have a way to stay strong. As Springsteen notes so well in his song "Badlands" with the line "that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive," we must cherish the happiness that Clemons gave us with his brilliant saxophone playing and enjoy life to the fullest. Because, unfortunately, the harsh reality of Springsteen's lyrics that so many fans identify with so closely have a way of telling the true reality of the situation. The music gives us the freedom to escape and be happy even if just for a little while.  Rest easy Big Man, you've made it to the Promised Land.

Jungleland - 1980

Jungleland - 2009

Thank you for the music Big Man...

Sadly, Clarence Clemons, iconic saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, passed away yesterday. I do not normally feel overly saddened by celebrity deaths, but this time I could not but help to feel very saddened upon hearing the news. If you have ever noticed the quote at the top of our page, you know that Bruce and the E St. Band's music means a lot to Scott and I. When we were kicking around ideas for the name of the blog, I was immediately drawn to the "3 Minute Record" name because of a long time love of the song "No Surrender" in which that quote comes from. That song still moves me as much now as when I first heard it some 25 years ago. I have already shared on this blog how my love of Springsteen can be attributed to my dad. The bond I share with my father has a lot to do with the music we have been able to share, especially the sounds of Bruce and the E St. Band. Mr. Clemons was one of the most important figures in helping create those sounds, and having to imagine the E St. Band without the Big Man is just unbelievable. I guess that is why I feel so sad tonight. I have so many great memories of seeing Bruce live and getting to hear Clarence's sax echo through the arena. I usually prefer intimate, small club shows as opposed to arenas, but there was something about seeing Bruce and the band live that was just amazing even in an arena. Clarence's sax soaring out of the PA and echoing throughout the hall had a way of just making you feel so alive. To know that I will never get to have that experience again is why I feel so sad tonight. Bands break up, relationships end, people pass on. When you realize that you will never get to experience something that brings so much happiness into your life, all you can really do is raise your glass and shed a few tears. Thank you sir for all the great music and performances, you had a great life.

"To bring joy and light to the world is my purpose in life" - Clarence Clemons

R.I.P. Ferlin Husky

The end came last Thursday for a performer with one of the more perfect names for country music, as word from Nashville came on Friday that country music pioneer Ferlin Husky died. He was 85. Born in Cantwell, MO on December 3, 1925 and reared on a farm near Flat River, MO, Husky grew up as a typical Midwesterner with a hard scrabble existence during the Great Depression and an eighth grade education.

Learning the basics of guitar as a boy from an uncle, Husky performed in honky tonks around St. Louis after dropping out of high school in the early 1940s. He worked blue-collar jobs as a truck driver and at a steel mill before enlisting in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II. Here he further honed his performing skills while entertaining other troops and adopting a stage persona of Simon Crum, an outspoken hayseed comic character based on a neighbor from back home.

After the war, Husky took a job as a disc jockey and performed from 1948 to 1953 under the stage name Terry Preston before reverting back to his real name. On the radio he continued to work on his Simon Crum character drawing an audience and sponsors. With the help of Tennessee Ernie Ford's manager, Cliffie Stone, Husky signed to Capitol Records in 1953 and recorded for the label until 1972.

Husky entertained country music fans in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s with hits like "Wings of a Dove" and "Gone."

His first number one hit on the country charts came during his first year at Capitol - "A Dear John Letter," a duet with Jean Shepard. The song also crossed over to the pop charts reaching number four.

In 1957, Husky reached the top spot on the country charts again with "Gone."

 

In 1960, Husky returned to the top of the country charts with "Wings of a Dove," a song written by Bob Ferguson, that stayed at number 1 for ten weeks and rose to number 12 on the pop charts.

Although Husky never reached the top of the charts again his music remained popular with country music fans. He reached number 4 twice with "Once" (1967) and "Just for You" (1968).

Husky semi retired in the late 1970s after heart issues. Though he returned to touring and performances, he ceased recording. In February 2010, the Country Music Association announce that Husky would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Over his career Husky charted 11 top ten country hits, 23 top twenty hits, and 41 top forty hits.

R.I.P. - Captain Beefheart

First reported on the Rolling Stone twitter feed this afternoon, the death of Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) was confirmed late this afternoon. He was 69 years old. Collaborating in the early 1960's with fellow avant garde musician and childhood friend Frank Zappa, Van Vliet formed the Magic Band in 1964 and set about his musical journey. Zappa and Van Vliet met as teenagers and played and listened to the blues and R & B music for which they shared an appreciation.

Signed to A & M on the merits of their first single, a cover of Willie Dixon's "Diddy Wah Diddy" the band began recording their full length album only to have it rejected by the record company forcing the band to re-record several tracks and leave others in the vaults. Finally in 1967, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, after adding guitar whiz Ry Cooder, released their psychedelic blues based debut album Safe As Milk on Buddah Records as the first step in a wildly eclectic and adventurous career. Organizers of the Monterrey Pop Festival extended an invitation to play the festival in June, but Van Vliet's exceedingly erratic behavior doomed the upcoming performance and sales of the album tanked.

His old friend and competitor Zappa signed Beefheart to his own label, Straight Records, and in 1969 Zappa produced the now legendary double LP Trout Mask Replica. The surreal masterpiece became a seminal point in his career influencing every fringe of the Rock and experimental music circles.  The legendary status the album enjoys stems not only from the influence the concept and music had on other artists, but the conception and recording of the album itself.  Beefheart took a tightfisted, singular approach to his musicians in the Magic Band.  He composed complex arrangements for the band to play and forced them to rehearse up to 14 hours a day in the house they shared in Los Angeles. He lorded over each band member confining them to the house and using sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and emotional and physical pain until they submitted to his will.  This situation eventually led to the album's 28 tracks being recorded in one session lasting less than 5 hours with vocals overdubbed later.

Beefheart continued to record and tour throughout the 1970's, retired in his early 40's after the release of Ice Cream For Crow in 1982. After twelve albums of influential music, Van Vliet retreated to California to focus on his art; a deep seeded fascination that almost led to a career as an artist dated back to his formative years. He gave few interviews during his retirement from music basically creating a second life for himself outside the spotlight.

Van Vliet suffered from multiple sclerosis and eventually died from complications of the disease.