Springsteen sax star Clarence Clemons dies

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The Independent Culture

Star saxophonist Clarence Clemons, a defining member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, has died after suffering a stroke, with the rock legend describing the loss of his longtime friend and music partner as "immeasurable."

The 69-year-old musician, who has had various health crises in recent years, died Saturday of complications from a massive stroke he suffered a week ago, Springsteen said in a statement on his website.

Springsteen, famous for a wealth of hits including "Born to Run" and "Dancing in the Dark," expressed "overwhelming sadness" at Clemons's passing.

"He was my great friend, my partner," Springsteen said.

"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 opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years."

Clemons, the spiritual heart of Springsteen's band, with a larger-than-life persona both on and off stage, had suffered the stroke at his home in Florida.

Initial signs were of a recovery, with fan site backstreets.com reporting Clemons being responsive and in a stable condition, but indications are his health failed later in the week.

His last appearance with Springsteen and the band was in December.

The son of a minister, Clemons - nicknamed the Big Man with the Big Horn - was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and started playing the alto saxophone at age nine.

A college football player in the 1960s, Clemons later worked with youth groups in Newark, New Jersey, playing his sax at clubs and music halls on the eastern shore at night.

After a chance meeting in Asbury Park, he joined Springsteen's original backing ensemble - before they were named the E Street Band - for the start of what would become a stellar career, kicking off in 1972.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, spritual home for Springsteen and his band, said it was "a very sad night for Springsteen fans & all of NJ," in a post to the blogging site Twitter.

Christie thanked Clemons "for 40 years of magical & soulful music. He will be missed forever."

In the 1980s, the sax player also found fame outside Springsteen's band with the 1985 duet "You're a Friend of Mine" with Jackson Browne, touring with Ringo Starr's All Star Band, and a move into acting with parts on the US TV show "Diff'rent Strokes," and the 1989 hit comedy movie "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."

The sax player most recently featured in the song "The Edge of Glory" on Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" album.