E Street Band sax man Clarence Clemons 'improving' after massive stroke in Florida
E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons continues to battle the after-effects of a massive stroke he suffered over the weekend at his home in Florida, but associates on Monday said they are more hopeful about his prospects for a recovery than they had been initially.
“Yesterday it did not look good at all,” a source described as “a close friend” told the Bruce Springsteen fan site Backstreets.com. “Today... miracles are happening. His vital signs are improving. He's responsive. His eyes are welling up when we're talking to him. He was paralyzed on his left side, but now he's squeezing with his left hand. This is the best news we've heard since [the stroke] happened — it's nothing short of miraculous. The next five days will still be critical. But he's a fighter."
The site said Clemons, 69, underwent two brain surgeries after the stroke and was responsive and in stable condition but still seriously ill.
Clemons has been an indispensible component of the E Street Band, both for his beefy tenor sax work in such Springsteen staple songs as “Born to Run” and “Jungleland” and his imposing presence on stage with the group, where he has often served as a playful and big-hearted foil to the band’s leader.
Springsteen invoked Clemons’ familiar nickname — and his role in the band — in “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”: “When the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band/From the coastline to the city all the little pretties raise their hands.” And Clemons is pictured at Springsteen's side on the fold-out cover on his 1975 breakthrough album "Born to Run."
As Springsteen explored different musical settings in the '80s and '90s, which periodically put the E Street Band on hiatus, Clemons recorded several solo albums and collaborated with other artists on theirs, including Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Ensemble, Aretha Franklin and Jackson Browne. Most recently he lent his sax to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album.
-- Randy Lewis
Photo: Clarence Clemons with Bruce Springsteen during the E Street Band's 2009 tour stop at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times