And when you look at the front cover of Born to Run, what do you see? A grinning Springsteen leaning against someone. Turn to the back and you'll spot that the someone is a largish Afro-American wearing a black hat and playing a sax.

The word about Springsteen had been out for a while, largely based on his strengths as a live performer rather than the records, good though they might have been. There were a myriad of new Dylans out there, but there weren't too many that sparked off huge ex-college footballers homking on a tenor sax, were there?

Anyone who's seen the video footage that turned up on the box sets that celebrated the 30th anniversaries of Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town will be all too aware of Clemons' importance as the man mountain visual counterpoint to the energetic front man. As Springsteen hopped and bopped Clarence anchored the visuals on stage right the same way Garry Tallent's bass anchored the music.

The Springsteen phenomenon was built on the strength of the live performances between Born to Run and Darkness, fuelled by the recording standoff as Springsteen sorted out his issues with former manager Mike Appel. No new record? Well, play the songs anyway. Need to get the word out? Well there are these FM stations that'll broadcast the sold out shows from medium sized venues like San Francisco's Winterland. Bootleggers, roll those tapes!

It'd be easy to run on from there, telling much the same story as the flood of newspaper and magazine obituaries, the disappointment when Springsteen put E Street on ice in 1989, the collaborations and side projects, the 1999 reunion tour and subsequent albums, how much he contributed to, say, Spirit in the NightRosalitaBorn to Run and Jungleland, all of which went on to become staples in the E Street live set as Springsteen developed into the stature that allowed him to sell out multiple nights in stadium sized venues…

But if you're not familiar with the man, his stature and his contribution to post-seventies rock, I'd point you right here and rest my case.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia on 11 January 1942, Clemons suffered a massive stroke at his Florida home on June 12 and despite hospitalization and subsequent brain surgery, departed this life on 18 June 2011.

Rest in peace, Big Man.


B© Ian Hughes 2012