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Lessons I learned from Clarence Clemons

June 19, 2011 | 12:10 am

I realize this entry has little to do with sports, and if you aren't fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, then you might want to just skip this post entirely, but I hope you don't.

Clarence Clemons, the saxophone player and iconic presence in the E Street Band, passed away tonight at the age of 69. But his soulful music will remain ageless.

Clemons' death is a difficult one to accept. I think back tonight on my childhood. My parents were from the south, with many of the racial misconceptions that come when you grew up in the south. I was born in California, and started listening to Bruce Springsteen at a young age. In fact, I pretty much listened to his music to the exclusion of all others, which probably isn't the best way to go about it, but helped me become the person I am today.

I remember my first show. Up on stage, Bruce and Clarence would sing together, dance together, laugh together. They seemed closer than brothers. The joy they brought out in each other washed over all of us in the audience and made us all feel renewed. They helped me realize that a person's beauty is in their soul. That true friends share a connection deeper than can be explained. I didn't instantly realize that as a child, of course, but, without me even knowing it, it had a great effect on how I viewed the world. Their connection helped me realize you could actually show emotion as a man and still remain masculine.

Yes, Clarence Clemons taught me a lot. I mourn his passing. But his music will touch my soul forever, and for that, I will always be grateful to him, to Bruce Springsteen, and to the entire band. Thank you for picking me up during the down time. Thank you for helping to make me the person I am today. God speed to you, sir, and I'm sure a gust of wind blew open the Pearly Gates when you came knocking.


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--Houston Mitchell