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Bruce Springsteen’s Former Drummer Will Caddie In The U.S. Open

Rock music and golf generally don’t have a lot of crossover; while guys like Alice Cooper and Eddie Van Halen have taken to the links on occasion, it’s more of a goof. And for rock stars like Bruce Springsteen, champion of the blue-collar worker, well, golf doesn’t quite fit into the image.

But then, the image doesn’t always fit real life, either. That’s why Vini Lopez, Springsteen’s first drummer, will be caddying in his very first U.S. Open later this month. Lopez loops for longtime club pro Mark McCormick, and on Monday, the unlikely duo won one of four invitations to the Open at the sectional qualifying in (of course) New Jersey.

McCormick is a fascinating story all his own; he’s 49 years old and has never played in a major. He told ESPN’s Ian O’Connor that this was his last shot, his final attempt at playing in an Open … and he’d be bringing Lopez along for the ride.

“And it finally happened,” Lopez told O’Connor. “Maybe if I were playing with  Bruce before 90,000 people in Hamburg, Germany, I’d feel differently  about it. But to me there’s nothing like watching Mark hit great shots  and putt like a demon and qualify for the Open. That’s the dream for  me.”

Lopez played with Springsteen in the proto-E-Street Band Steel Mill (check out some of their late 60s/early 70s work right here) but clashed with Springsteen. And as with most conflicts where you’re going up against The Boss, Lopez was out, just a year before Springsteen released “Born To Run” and changed rock music as we know it. Since then, he’s appeared onstage with Springsteen on a few occasions, like this one from 2009:

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McCormick also had the added burden of knowing his son was in the field; young Ryan McCormick didn’t fare as well as his father. But there will be more chances. For now, this is Mark’s time, and Vini is along for the ride.

So Lopez heads out on that highway filled with broken heroes, on a last-chance power drive. Maybe he’ll help guide McCormick to an amazing finish, maybe they’ll be done by the weekend. Either way, he’ll be one of the better stories of the Open’s first couple days. And if nothing else, he could teach the Golf Boys a thing or two about real music.

Born to Rock: Bruce Springsteen’s 7 best albums

On the eve of ‘Wrecking Ball,’ a look at the Boss’s finest

By Melinda Newman Thursday, Mar  1, 2012  8:27 PM

Born to Rock: Bruce Springsteen's 7 best albums
Credit: AP Photo

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Bruce Springsteen’s 17th studio album, “Wrecking Ball,” comes out March 6 and The Beat Goes On is blatantly stealing a page from our colleague Kris Tapley’s “The Lists” concept. In anticipation of the new set, we’re ranking The Boss’s Top 7 albums. Take a look at our gallery and let the debate begin.
Springsteen’s canon of work dates back more nearly 40 years to 1973’s “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.” While there was a major shift with his third album, 1975’s “Born To Run,” in terms of transforming from a proud Dylan wanna-be who crammed as many words as possible in to a song to someone who found his own identity and voice, what hasn’t changed has been his commitment to his craft and his live show.

At 62, Springsteen has become the chronicler of our times. Or as he says, it has always been his job to write about the distance between the American dream and American reality. Unlike many other artists whose songs aren’t rooted in any specific geography,  Springsteen’s narrative spans from sea-to-shining-sea. He is a product of New Jersey and the U.S.A. and the lyrical territory he roams in song seldom extends beyond our shores (despite the fact that he is now a bigger concert draw in Europe than he is here).
But to concentrate on Springsteen’s role as social commentator only shows one part of the story. Over the last several decades, Springsteen has delivered some of the goofiest, most joyous songs ever committed to record, whether it be the rollicking “Ramrod,” the double entendre-filled “Pink Cadillac,” the giddy “So Young And In Love” or the purely jubilant “Rosalita.”
It felt like a cheat to include live albums on here, so I didn’t. (I also chose not to include any bootlegs). However, any Springsteen fan’s collection is incomplete without two sets: “Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Hammersmith Odeon London 75” and “Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Live 1975-1985.” The Hammersmith set, which wasn’t officially released until  2005, captures a moment in time: Springsteen’s first U.K. show that has now become the stuff of legend. Springsteen was freaking out beforehand as Columbia’s hype machine was in full effect and he wanted the music to speak for itself. The loose-limbed, sped-up “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” is a frenetic frenzy, and the 13-minute “E Street Shuffle” feels like it traverses space and time. It’s nothing less than revelatory to hear a 25-year old Springsteen, still so early in his career, at such command of his stage craft.
“Live 1975-1985,” if nothing else, shows the tremendous range of the E Street Band and serves as a de-facto greatest hits. It was also the first album to capture the wide-ranging magic of Springsteen’s show including such chestnuts as his covers of “Raise Your Hand” and “War” and songs that lay flat on vinyl, like “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” but came alive in concert.
There are high notes on every album released, even the ones I would rank toward the bottom of a list should I have included the full catalog, such as 2009′s “Working On A Dream” (though I’m hard pressed to find anything good to say about “Queen of the Supermarket”). As with all such lists, this one is totally subjective. For example, though I find them among his most cinematic works, I find myself seldom returning to  largely acoustic, solo albums like “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and “Devils & Dust”
Before you flip to the gallery, if you aren’t a Springsteen fanatic (yet), watch this video, and  see what joy he brings millions of us (plus, there are wonderful shots of dearly departed members Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons):

Bruce Springsteen: Rocker Charges US Government With ‘Un-American’ Acts

Posted on Feb 17th 2012 4:00PM by Jason MacNeil

Taylor Hill, FilmMagic

Bruce Springsteen didn’t mince words Thursday night at the Theatre Marigny in Paris during a press conference while promoting his upcoming ‘Wrecking Ball‘ album. The topic: His utter disappointment with the current state of America. “What was done to our country was wrong and unpatriotic and un-American and nobody has been held to account,” Springsteen told The Guardian. “There’s a real patriotism underneath the best of my music. But it is a critical, questioning and often angry patriotism.” Springsteen, who gave critics an advanced listen of the new studio album, also said the fury behind some of the record’s lyrics, including the title track, was because “a big promise has been broken.” “You can’t have a United States if you are telling some folks that they can’t get on the train,” he said. “There’s a cracking point where a society collapses. You can’t have a civilization where something is factionalized like this.”The musician noted he plans to back President Barack Obama leading up to the November election but he may not offer his support as overtly as he did during the 2008 election. “I don’t write for one side of the street… But the Bush years were so horrific you could not just sit around,” Springsteen said. “It was such a blatant disaster. I campaigned for Kerry and Obama, and I am glad I did. But normally I would prefer to stay on the sidelines. The artist is supposed to be the canary in the cage.” As for Obama’s first term as President, Springsteen listed Obama’s healthcare legislation (“thought not the public system I would have wanted”), the death of Osama Bin Laden and bringing “sanity to the top level of government” as successes. But he also said “big business still has too much of a say in government” and felt the Guantanamo Bay detention camp “would have been closed” by now. Springsteen also cited the recent Occupy movements around the world, especially Occupy Wall Street, with pushing important issues to the forefront. “The Occupy Wall Street movement has been powerful about changing the national conversation,” he said, as reported by The Telegraph. “The Tea Party set the conversation for a while but now people are talking about economic equality. That’s a conversation America hasn’t had for 20 years.”

Watch Bruce Springsteen’s ‘We Take Care of Our Own’ Video

According to the rocker, the album’s first single ‘We Take Care of Our Own’ — which Springsteen performed last week at the Grammys — gets right to the point. “The song asks the question that the rest of the record tries to answer which is, ‘Do we?’ We often don’t,” he said as reported by The Evening Standard. “I write carefully and precisely and I believe clearly. If you’re missing it, you’re not quite thinking hard enough.” The Telegraph reports Springsteen addressed the strong emotion driving the album, too. “You can never go wrong in rock ‘n’ roll when you’re pissed off,” he said. “My work has always been about judging the distance between American reality and the American dream.” Springsteen also said “a lovely moment for me” on the album is the sax on ‘Land of Hope and Dreams,’ a song that features the late Clarence Clemons. “Losing Clarence is like something elemental, it’s like losing the rain, that’s a part of life,” he said. Springsteen launches the ‘Wrecking Ball’ world tour in Atlanta on March 18. The European leg begins May 13 in Sevilla and runs through July 31 in Helsinki. Although nothing is confirmed, there’s speculation a second North American leg is planned for later in 2012.

Angry Springsteen Gauges Gap Between American Dream & Reality

16 February 2012 – 21H53

 Bruce Springsteen performed at the Staples Center during the 54th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, on February 12. Springsteen’s latest album “Wrecking Ball”, presented to journalists in Paris on Thursday ahead of release on March 6 and a US and European tour, is a tableau of the American Dream that has gone horribly wrong.
Anger at unfettered greed, sympathy for the poor and the unemployed, and gospel-style appeals for hope are the emotional threads that run through the 17th studio album in Springsteen’s 38-year career.

Springsteen said America had become a society where “people were locked into the strata under which they were born”.

“We’ve destroyed the idea of an equal playing field,” he said.

That’s a big promise that’s been broken. There’s a critical mass point where a society collapses, and you can’t have a civilisation with a society that’s as factionalised as that.”

The 11-track album kicks off with the already-released “We Take Care of Our Own”, which contrasts glib patriotic slogans with the dour reality for Americans fighting to keep a job or save their homes from foreclosure.

Other tracks pour bile over the “robber barons” of the financial system and wave an angry fist at anonymous corporations, able to destroy a town without a shot being fired.

“The banker man grows fat / The working man grows thin / It’s all happened before and it will happen again,” says “Jack of All Trades”, which adds, “If I had me a gun / I’d find the bastards and shoot ‘em on sight.”

Springsteen said the album was triggered by the 2008 financial crisis, which he said was a culmination of three decades of deregulation and unbridled profiteering.

Until the Occupy Wall Street movement began last year, no-one was even deemed accountable for the disaster, he said.

“A basic theft had occurred that struck the heart of just what the entire American idea was about, really. It was a complete disregard of history, of context, of community, and all about, ‘what can I get today?’.

“So it was an enormous faultline that cracked the American system wide open, and its repercussions were really just beginning to really be felt,” he said.

Springsteen said he had always had a close interest in inequality and unfairness in America and hit at those who chose to misinterpret his lyrics as unpatriotic, as happened in the 1984 classic “Born in the USA”.

“There is a feeling of patriotism underneath (…) in my best music, but at the same time, it’s a very critical, questioning, often angry sort of patriotism,” he said.

“That’s not something that I’m prepared to give up for fear that someone might simplify what I’m saying.”

He added: “My work has always been about judging the distance between American reality and the American dream. How far is that at any given moment?” he said.

The first part of the album — “very angry, particularly”, said Springsteen — cedes to songs that have an almost biblical feel in their longing for hope, solidarity and salvation.

Asked about this, Springsteen referred to a working-class Catholic childhood in New Jersey, where he lived next door to a church.

“I got completely brainwashed as a child with Catholicism,” he said. “(…) It’s given me a very active sense of spiritual life — and made it very difficult sexually,” he quipped.

In musical terms, the album borrows on folk, gospel and 1930s recession songs for what Springsteen described as “historical resonances” to convey social themes.

One of the strongest tracks is “Land of Hope and Dreams”, an anthem that feels rooted in the “Born to Run” album that propelled Springsteen to stardom in 1975.

It notably features the blasting saxophone of Clarence Clemons, aka “The Big Man”, a close friend of Springsteen who died last year from complications of a stroke. Clemons’ nephew, Jake Clemons, has been rostered to play sax on the upcoming tour, opening in Atlanta on Saturday.

“Losing Clarence is like losing something elemental. It’s like losing the rain, you know, or air,” Springsteen said.

“That’s a part of life. The currents of life affect even the dream world of popular music. There’s no escape.”

Steven Van Zandt: ‘Bruce Springsteen Tour Is My Priority This Year’

Published Tuesday, Feb 14 2012, 12:49pm EST | By Justin Harp | Add comment

Steven Van Zandt has said that touring with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is his top priority for the year.
The musician-actor is currently starring in the Netflix series Lilyhammer, but recently insisted that a second season will have to wait until after he tours the globe in support of Springsteen’s new album Wrecking Ball.

Steven Van Zandt

© WENN / Andres Otero

Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Bandmate Patti Scialfa

© PA Images / Amy Sancetta/AP

“[It's] not like we’re going out there and playing a bunch of hits, and going through the motions. Then I would think twice. But we’re not doing that,” Van Zandt told The AV Club.
“We’re going out there as vital as ever, same enthusiasm as ever, with a terrific relationship with the most exciting audience in the world. So that motivates you. That keeps you going.”
He added of his commitment to the band: “I do have to make the time, and other things suffer. I could be parlaying this TV show into something bigger, or a second season, as you said, or whatever. Now that’s gotta wait.
“So you do have to make decisions about that. That’s a conscious decision. Other things will suffer because of the sacrifice I’m making to do this, and that’s just my decision.”
Van Zandt went on to admit that it will be very tough for the E Street Band to tour without saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died last year after a long period of ill health.
He explained: “We just started rehearsing, so all this stuff’s going to be discussed and figured out over the next couple weeks, and we’ll see. We’ll see exactly what those answers are.
“Does the essential sound change? How does it change? How do you compensate for that, and all those kind of questions, I think, will be explored over the next couple of weeks.”
Van Zandt recently said that Wrecking Ball ranks among his all-time favorite Springsteen albums.
Wrecking Ball is released on March 5 in the UK and March 6 in the US

Tenor Sax Player Was Fundamental to Springsteen’s Meteoric Career

The Irish Times – Saturday, July 2, 2011

Clarence Clemons: CLARENCE CLEMONS, who has died aged 69, was a saxophonist and, as a key member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, a highly influential rock musician of recent decades.

His imprint was all over Springsteen’s defining Born to Run album of 1975. Almost as much as the music, it was the sleeve image of Springsteen leaning nonchalantly on Clemons that symbolised the intense fraternal bonding which helped fuel Springsteen’s rise. Throughout the years of their greatest success, Clemons was a vital ingredient of Springsteen’s sound and an invaluable onstage foil to the “Boss”.

Clarence Clemons was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the eldest of the three children of Thelma Clemons and her husband Clarence, who owned a fish market. His parents worked long hours and were devoutly religious, and the young Clarence cut his musical teeth with the local church choir and in a gospel group. He used to help out with the family fish business after school, and shouldered some domestic responsibilities while his mother took a college course. “I didn’t have much time for childhood innocence,” he said later.

He began playing the saxophone after his father bought him an alto instrument one Christmas, and enrolled him in music lessons at a local college. He switched to the baritone sax, but decided the tenor sax was the way to go after feeling inspired to imitate the playing of King Curtis. He was also a keen football player, and won a football and music scholarship to Maryland State College. It looked as if he might be destined for a sporting career, but his footballing hopes were crushed by a serious car accident.

He had gained musical experience by playing with an R&B covers band, the Vibratones, and also played with Tyrone Ashley’s Funky Music Machine, an outfit featuring future members of Parliament-Funkadelic. Clemons moved to Newark, where he took a job as a counsellor to emotionally disturbed children at the Jamesburg Training School for Boys, while playing in clubs by night.

He was moving among the same circle of local musicians as Springsteen, and first ran into him when they were both playing in separate bars in the resort of Asbury Park. Clemons went to check out Springsteen and asked if he could play sax with him. Springsteen invited him to join in on a version of Spirit in the Night . “I sat in with him that night,” Clemons told People magazine. “It was phenomenal. We’d never even laid eyes on each other, but after that first song he looked at me, I looked at him, and we said ‘This is it’.”

By now Clemons had married and fathered two sons, Clarence III and Charles, by his first wife, but the union quickly became a casualty of his decision to quit his job and join the E Street Band.

Clemons stayed the course for Springsteen’s first couple of commercially unsuccessful albums, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, and The Wild, The Innocent the E Street Shuffle (both released in 1973), before the band-leader exploded into stardom with Born to Run (the story of how Clemons joined the E Streeters was alluded to in the song Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out ). Clemons’s saxophone featured prominently on Thunder Road, Jungle-land and Born to Run itself, and his background in R&B and soul lent an authentic earthiness to the soul-band feel of the E Street crew in their early days.

Clemons became an E Street mascot, his 6ft 4in bulk contrasting with that of the Boss onstage. His playing lit up some of Springsteen’s best-known pieces, including Badlands, The Ties That Bind, Independence Day and Bobby Jean. After the colossal success of the 1984 album Born in the USA and the follow-up, Tunnel of Love (1987), Springsteen decided he wanted a change, and in 1989 told the band members they were no longer required. Clemons was shocked, though for some years he had been pursuing musical directions of his own. Indeed, when he received Springsteen’s call, he was touring in Japan with Ringo Starr.

Clemons had formed his own band, the Red Bank Rockers, in 1981. An album, Hero , included a duet with Jackson Browne, Y ou’re a Friend of Mine , which became a Top 20 hit. He also played on Aretha Franklin’s 1985 hit Freeway of Love.

In 1999, Springsteen saw the error of his ways and recalled the E Street Band to his side for a reunion tour. The Rising (2002) was the first album he had made with the full E Street squad since Born in the USA.

Springsteen and the band were prominent on the Vote for Change tour in 2004, which aimed (unsuccessfully) to put a Democrat in the White House, and the E Streeters were also united behind Springsteen for the albums Magic (2007) and Working On a Dream (2009). In between, Clemons found time to perform with the band Temple of Soul. “We have one life and that life is on that stage,” he said. “Everything else doesn’t matter because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

In 2009 Clemons published his autobiography, Big Man: Real Life Tall Tales, which was hailed by the former US president and part-time saxophonist Bill Clinton as “an essential read for any music lover”. Clemons played on several tracks from Lady Gaga’s 2011 album Born This Way , and performed with her on the television show American Idol.

He had been experiencing health problems. He had two knee replacements in 2008, and also needed spinal surgery. He suffered a serious stroke earlier this month.

On his website, Springsteen wrote: “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.”

Clemons is survived by his sons Clarence, Charles, Christopher and Jarod, and his fifth wife, Victoria.

Clarence Anicholas Clemons: Born January 11th, 1942; died June 18th, 2011

Springsteen, Van Zandt Salute E Street Band Saxophonist Clarence Clemons

E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt will salute his late bandmate, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, on his Sirius XM Radio channel on Friday.

The two-hour special on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel will start at 4 p.m. Pacific time (7 p.m. Eastern) and will cover Clemons’ storied career playing alongside Bruce Springsteen in concert and in the recording studio, as well as his outings apart from the E Street Band.

The latter includes his prominent part on Aretha Franklin’s Grammy-winning 1985 hit “Freeway of Love,” his duet the same year with Jackson Browne “You Are a Friend of Mine,” and a collaboration with Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter on “All of the Good Ones Are Taken.”

Van Zandt also plans to incorporate interview segments with Clemons and audio excerpts from  movie and TV appearances he made, such as in “New York, New York,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and “The Wire.”

Clemons died at age 69 on June 18, six days after suffering a stroke at his home in Florida. A few days after his death, Springsteen delivered a eulogy at a private service for Clemons, and in it he hinted that the E Street Band will find a way to continue:

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….

“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. …

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 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.

The full text of what’s described as “a slightly revised version” of the eulogy has been posted on Springsteen’s website.

Readers Poll: The Greatest Bruce Springsteen Songs

Last weekend we gave our readers the challenge of picking their single
favorite Bruce Springsteen song. It’s not an easy decision. Do you go for an
iconic song like “Born To Run,” or a slightly lesser known (but equally
brilliant) track like “Backstreets”? Do you pick a rocker like “Rostalita (Come
Out Tonight)” or a quiet, acoustic track like “Atlantic City”? Our readers went
for all of the above. Click through to see the winners.

By Andy Greene

10. ‘Racing In The Street’

The devastating loss of Clarence Clemons was clearly on the
minds of some voters as some of his greatest sax work is represented in the list
– which kicks off with 1978′s “Racing In The Street.” While the debate still
about whether you can put fuelie heads on a 1969 Chevy 396, the song
is a longtime fan favorite and contains some of the greatest keyboard/organ work
in the Springsteen catalog.

9. ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’

The title track to 1978s Darkness On The Edge Of Town remains one of
Springsteen’s most powerful statements. He’s performed it solo acoustic, with
various incarnations of the E Street Band and even with the “Other Band” in
1992/93 – but for our money the definitive version was cut under two years ago
at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theater. Shortly after the Working On a Dream
ended in late 2009, Springsteen and the members of the E Street Band
who played on the original (with Charlie Giordano subbing for the late Danny
Federici) convened at theater to play Darkness On the Edge of Town
straight through for a DVD shoot. It culminated with this fiery rendition of the
song. By the end, the veins in Bruce’s head seem to be on the verge of

8. ‘Atlantic City’

In March of 1981, mob boss Philip “The Chicken Man” Testa was killed when a
nail bomb exploded under his front porch. He lived about an hour away from
Atlantic City, and owned a bar on the boardwalk where Donald Trump later built a
massive casino. The incident kicked off an incredibly bloody mob war, and
inspired Bruce Springsteen to wrote one of his most evocative songs. In early
drafts of the tune, when it was still called “Fistful of Dollars,” Springsteen
can be heard methodically shaping the tune until he settled on the final form.
It’s the highlight of his stellar 1982 disc Nebraska, though check out
Live In New York City for a amazing live take with the E Street Band.

7. ‘Backstreets’

Like most Bruce Springsteen songs, “Backstreets” is significantly better live
in concert. The tale of lost love wraps up side one of Born to Run, but
onstage it really popped. To many fans, the definitive versions are found on the
1978 tour. Bruce would typically slow the song down in the middle to deliver a
passionate “Sad Eyes” rap, which eventually evolved into 1980′s “Drive All

6. ‘Badlands’

Almost no song in the Springsteen catalog gets a crowd riled up like
“Badlands.” The opening track to Darkness on the Edge of Town has a
drum intro so memorable that Best Coast swiped it for their 2010 song
“Girlfriend,” and it just gets more anthemic from there. Earlier this year,
Springsteen performed it in Boston with the Dropkick Murphys. The place went
absolutely insane.

5. ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)’

“Rostalita (Come Out Tonight)” was the highlight of countless Springsteen
live shows during the E Street Band’s original incarnation between 1973 to 1988.
In the 1990s, Springsteen had enough and only played it on extremely special
occasions in New Jersey. In 1999, the reunited E Street Band played a 15-night
stand at Jersey’s Continental Airlines Arena. Most nights the fans held up signs
for “Rosalita,” but Springsteen didn’t budge until the very last night. “It’s
been a great gift being able to stand up here and make this music come alive and
to look out into your faces,” he told the crowd before the final song. “How
could I say thanks? I know there’s a way. I’m sure there’s a way. I haven’t seen
any of those stupid signs. So maybe just once . . .”  It would be another four
years before it became a regular part of the setlist again.

4. ‘The River’

When Bruce Springsteen’s sister Virginia was just 17 she became pregnant, and
wound up marrying her high school boyfriend. Their struggle inspired Springsteen
to write “The River,” about a couple in a similar situation. He debuted the song
in 1979 at the No Nukes concert at Madison Square Garden, and he dedicated the
song to his sister and brother-in-law. Twenty years later, he played the song on
the E Street Band’s reunion tour in a drastically slowed down, sax-heavy
arrangement – making it somehow even sadder. Check it out here.

3. ‘Jungleland’

In his book Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales, Clarence Clemons
recalled the origins of the Born to Run album. “In the beginning, I
think Bruce was going for a rock opera kind of thing about this character called
Magic Rat,” Clemons wrote. “He had lots of songs and themes that were built
around this narrative he had in his head. Eventually he let that go.” The Magic
Rat did make it into the album’s epic closer “Jungleland,” which contains
Clarence’s most famous sax solo. In the summer of 2009, they played it at
London’s Hyde Park right as the sun was coming down. Check it out here.

2. ‘Born To Run’

In early 1974, Bruce Springsteen was listening to Duane Eddy’s 1960 hit
“Because They’re Young” when a similarly twangy, dramatic guitar riff came into
his head. It soon became the intro for the “exhilarating, orgasmic” new song the
struggling 24-year-old singer-songwriter was trying to create: He called it
“Born to Run.” “I had these enormous ambitions for it,” says Springsteen, now
56. “I wanted to make the greatest rock record that I’d ever heard, I wanted
it to sound enormous, to grab you by your throat and insist that you take that
ride, insist that you pay attention – not just to the music,
but to life, to being alive.” – Brian Hiatt

1. ‘Thunder Road’

When Bruce Springsteen arranged the track order on Born to Run, he
wanted the album to convey the sense of one long, sweaty day in New Jersey.
“There is something about the [piano] melody of Thunder Road’ that
suggests a new day,” Springsteen told Rolling Stone in 2005. “Which is
why that song ended up first on the record, instead of ‘Born To Run.’”
Springsteen spent months slowly tweaking the song before he cut it in the
studio, often playing those in-progress versions on the road. It was originally
called “Wings For Wheels,” but when he saw the poster for Robert Mitchum’s 1958
movie Thunder Road he knew he had a title.

Springsteen and Clemons: Music’s Buddy Movie?

Praise for the interracial friendship between the two E Street Band members was excessive. Like bromance flicks, it was a substitute for relationships uncommon in real life.

By: Samuel G. Freedman|Posted: June 29, 2011 at 12:11 AM

When Bruce Springsteen introduced Clarence Clemons to audiences, he announced him with such titles as the Emperor, the King of the World, the Minister of Soul. As if to match the rhetoric, Clemons often adorned his 6-foot-4 frame in a gaudy three-piece suit and wide-brimmed fedora, flirting with the stereotypes of preacher and pimp.

The tableau of Springsteen, the scrawny white scamp, and Clemons, the great black guardian, made iconic in the cover photo of the Born to Run album, was a calculated pose. As much as the friendship between the two musicians was by all accounts deep and genuine, its presentation was two-dimensional. In the pop-music marketplace, the picture wasn’t photojournalism; it was the logo on a package, and that package ultimately became a brand.

But you would never guess at any of these complexities from the outpouring of eulogies after Clemons’ recent death from the complications of a stroke. The encomiums have gone beyond praise for his musicianship and stage presence in the E Street Band to tributes to him and Springsteen as the very model of transracial brotherhood.

“Clemons, Bruce Bridged Rock’s Racial Divide,” read the headline at A writer at the Huffington Post said that Clemons’ impact on race relations for many Americans “will last a lifetime.” A New York Times op-ed columnist lifted up Clemons and Springsteen as “a cultural example of how the divide of race can come together over music.”

These garlands are true in ways their authors don’t understand, and false in ways they don’t recognize. The packaged image of Clemons and Springsteen barely hinted at the meaningful way they did connect, against a backdrop of race riots and white flight along the Jersey Shore in the 1960s and ’70s. The image alone, though, seemed to suffice for plenty of fans and critics. And let’s face it: All, or virtually all of them, are white. If there has been a testimonial to the Clemons-Springsteen bond by a black journalist these past weeks, I have missed it.

The reason is that Springsteen and Clemons were enacting a familiar trope: the buddy movie. From Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones to Bill Cosby and Robert Culp in I Spy; to Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction to Scott Bakula, Ray Romano and Andre Braugher in Men of a Certain Age, we have seen this show before. The entertainment industry, in all its well-meaning liberalism, supplies fictional versions of black-white fellowship to replace the dearth of it in real life.

However laudable their alliance, Springsteen and Clemons hardly offered the first example of interracial rock and roll. Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Booker T. Jones, Carlos Santana and Prince all led mixed bands decades ago. What is different, I’d venture, is the fan base Springsteen reaches — one that is far whiter than those of the other groups, one that finds more novelty and idealism in the mere fact that there’s a black sideman onstage.

At the outset of the E Street Band, Clemons wasn’t even the sole (dare one say, token) black. The group also included another African American, David Sancious, on keyboards, and a Latino, Vini Lopez, on drums. Sancious left, Lopez was replaced and Springsteen’s music after Born to Run veered from the ethnically mongrel influences of soul, pop and even jazz to folk rock inspired by Woody Guthrie. One of Springsteen’s masterpieces, “The Rising,” drew on Celtic and Sufi sounds.

All along the way, Springsteen’s most important alter ego and collaborator in the band was Steven Van Zandt, something that was apparent in last year’s HBO documentary about the making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. No wonder Clemons had less of a role, on recordings or in concert, as the years went by.

I say all this, by the way, as a longtime Springsteen fan who first saw him live in 1976 and who owns most of the catalog. But as a native New Jerseyan, I also have a sense of the backstory of Springsteen and Clemons, the part that really does endow their friendship with meaning.

Both Springsteen’s hometown of Freehold and his musical base of Asbury Park endured racial violence. Asbury Park went into a steep decline thereafter, going from a shore resort to a slum by the sea. Springsteen knowingly describes these ravages in such songs as “My Hometown” and “My City of Ruins,” and the author Kevin Coyne, a Freehold native, writes trenchantly about them in his book Marching Home.

But a couple of honking tenor solos and some onstage shtick, the routine that Springsteen and Clemons trotted out for arena crowds, are no substitute for the tough subtleties of ordinary existence. Nor are they meant to be. Entertainment has no requirement to be social realism, except, I suppose, in the old USSR. In his own political activism, Springsteen has emphasized individual action and personal engagement rather than the passive and self-satisfied reliance on symbols.

So in memory of Clarence Clemons, it’s completely right to listen to “Spirit in the Night” or “Jungleland” or “Mary’s Place.” It’s entirely appropriate to get sentimental about concerts when Clemons, and we, were young. And there the legitimate mourning should end. Bruce Springsteen lost a friend, and that is a tragedy. The rest of us white folk lost an illusion, a proxy, a friendship that we experienced only from a nonthreatening distance, and that is a lesson.

Samuel G. Freedman, a journalism professor at Columbia University, is the author of six books, including Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church. He is currently writing a book about football and civil rights at two HBCUs in the 1960s.

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After Clarence Clemons’ Death, What’s Next For The E Street Band?

Jay Lustig/The Star-Ledger By Jay Lustig/The Star-LedgerThe Star-Ledger Follow

The E Street Band at the last show ever at Giants Stadium, in October 2009

After Clarence Clemons died and fans got over their initial shock, one of the first questions they asked, to themselves and to other fans, was, “Will the E Street Band continue?”

Now, though, the question is more like: “How will the E Street Band continue?”

In a statement posted on his website after Clemons’ June 18 death, Bruce Springsteen indicated that he thought the band had a future, writing that “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.”

On Sunday, E Streeter Steven Van Zandt also looked to the band’s future on his syndicated radio show “Underground Garage,” discussing the strong bond among band members and then saying: “We will continue to make music and perform. Let’s face it, that’s all we really know how to do. But it will be very different without him.”

How will the band do it? Springsteen hasn’t said, so all we can do is speculate. But here are some thoughts on the subject.

When keyboardist Danny Federici — like Clemons, an original E Street Band member — died in 2008, the band segued smoothly to its next phase. But that was a totally different scenario. Federici had been suffering from melanoma for awhile, and the undeniably capable Charles Giordano had already been filling in for him on tour. After Federici’s death, Giordano simply stayed on.

Clemons’ shoes are harder to fill. While Federici was one of the architects of the E Street sound, he did not play a big role in the band’s stage show. Clemons, though, was right up front, taking solos (though, admittedly, fewer and fewer as the years went on) and acting as a kind of Springsteen sidekick.

Van Zandt, on Sunday, called Clemons the band’s “second member,” and I don’t think he meant chronologically. He meant that Clemons was the second most important guy (Springsteen always fed into that idea, too, by introducing Clemons last at shows). As has been mentioned countless times since Clemons’ death, it was he — and no other E Streeter — that Springsteen chose to pose with on the cover of his “Born to Run” album. And Clemons’ booming saxophone was a big part of the E Street sound, from “Spirit in the Night” (from Springsteen’s first album, “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.”) to “This Life” (from his most recent one, “Working on a Dream”).

The symbolism of Clemons just being there, onstage, was powerful: Here were Springsteen and his cherished friend, still together after so many years, so many tours. Another musician can play Clemons’ parts, but that can never be replaced.

So what can Springsteen do?

The most straightforward solution — hire another sax player — is also the most problematic. Another musician can never offer the resonance that Clemons did, just by showing up.

Some fans have brought up the prospect of Clemons’ nephew — Jake Clemons, who plays sax as well as guitar — stepping into the role. Of course, drummer Jay Weinberg, Max Weinberg’s son, filled in for his father for portions of the 2009 “Working on a Dream” tour, and that worked out well. So that’s one possibility — and one that would at least offer some sentimental uplift.

But there are other ways to go, too.

Springsteen could avoid songs that are sax-heavy, or rearrange them so that they don’t need sax. That was his strategy, more or less, on the 1992-93 band tour he did without Clemons and most of the other E Streeters. He did have a multi-instrumentalist in the band, Crystal Taliefero, who could play sax. But she didn’t play it much.

He could add a full horn section, not just a sax, so that the horn parts could be spread around. This would at least take some of the pressure off the new sax player.

He could really shuffle things up, with various E Streeters playing in several different combinations — electric, acoustic, semi-acoustic — at different points in the show, and the songs getting drastic reinterpretations. I really like this solution: I’m always eager to hear Springsteen reworking things instead of just cranking out songs such as “Badlands” and “The Rising” — great as they are — the same way they’ve always been played.

And Springsteen might have been thinking along these lines before the start of his 2005 solo tour; he reportedly rehearsed with a stripped-down band featuring Federici, guitarist Nils Lofgren, violinist Soozie Tyrell and drummer Steve Jordan before deciding to do the tour solo.

I have my doubts, though, that Springsteen would do something so radical,
especially for an arena/stadium tour.

Certainly, no matter what happens, there will be warm words about Clemons on any future E Street tour, and maybe a video tribute or something along those lines.
It would be great if his sax could be onstage, too, whenever and wherever the E Street Band plays, as a three-dimensional representation of the idea that — as Van Zandt said on Sunday — “The heart of us, Clarence and Danny, will always be there, stage right.”
Jay Lustig: (973) 392-5850 or