Big Man Clarence Clemons Is Living In The Future

The Big Man has seen the future – and it features Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Saxophonist Clarence Clemons recorded a webcast this week with his longtime bandmates in Asbury Park, N.J. – just part of his current whirlwind of activities.

Photo: AP Photo
Olympic Stadium, Munich, Germany

He’s playing the national anthem on Sunday at the Jets-Miami Dolphins football game in New Jersey, then heads to a California show next week. He’s also busy rooting on his nephew and fellow saxophonist, Jake Clemons.

In between it all, he was checked out this week by the Manhattan medical team overseeing his recovery from the back surgery he underwent nearly a year ago.

“It takes a village to run the Big Man – a village of doctors,” Clemons told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “They all applauded me. I’m starting to feel better; I’m moving around a lot better.”

A few days earlier, on Tuesday, he’d spent hours with the E Street Band, recording the performance at the historic Asbury Park Carousel House.

“We got the call a couple of weeks ago,” said Clemons. “That’s the way we always work. … You get that call, you show up.”

Some of the musicians hadn’t been together for a year. But they seamlessly picked up where they left off, he says.

“Everybody looks fantastic. Wow!” said Clemons. “It’s like we never left. It’s always great to see each other – but we get right to work. … We didn’t get the chance to sit around and reminisce.”

“The music was fantastic,” said Clemons. “But I miss some of the guys who weren’t there,” including the late Danny Federici.

They played songs from The Promise, a new album of works that date back to a very early chapter of their professional lives.

The music “tasted different; it’s more refined,” he says. It’s “more adult” because of “all the experiences we’ve had; we’ve all grown a lot, musically.”

“Every time we get together, it’s all brand new,” said Clemons. “Every time, Bruce comes back with something new and something different. I keep wondering: How high can he take it? … How many times can he be reborn? I just want to keep on living so I can keep seeing the change.”

Clemons, who turns 69 in January, insists that “the age thing is just a number.” With each new year, he says with a laugh, “I’m going to be harder to handle.”

Clemons deftly sidesteps questions about when the E Street Band might tour, saying simply, “We don’t discuss that stuff.”

“I just wait ’til it happens,” he said. “We will see each other again. It will be fantastic.”

During the football game Sunday, weather forecasters say it may be cold and rainy.

“It’s the ultimate test of my love of music,” jokes Clemons, a Florida resident. “I feel bad for the horn, out there in the cold.”

“But we’re hot together.”