Bruce Springsteen paid tribute to his musical brother, late sax player Clarence Clemons , on Tuesday at a memorial service in Florida. The titanic 69-year-old musician died on Saturday at a Palm Beach hospital after complications from a recent stroke.
The private two-hour funeral at a small church near Palm Beach was attended by Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa, as well as fellow E Street bandmember Steven Van Zandt, singer Jackson Browne and Miami Heat general manager Pat Riley.
“Clarence was a man of unconditional love, but his love came with a lot of conditions,” Springsteen said of his friend of more than four decades. His comments drew some knowing laughs and nods from the crowd of 150 packed into the small Royal Poinciana Chapel, according to the Palm Beach Daily News. “He was a complex guy … an ongoing project. But when you were in his presence, it was like being in a sovereign nation.”
The paper also reported that one of Clemons’ final requests was that his fifth wife, Victoria, scatter his ashes on a cherished spot in Hawaii in the presence of “all of the special women in his life,” which included his previous wives. Three of the musician’s four ex’s were in attendance at the service, and Victoria announced at the memorial that she would honor her husband’s wishes.
Last week, a number of fellow musicians, from U2 to Coldplay and Slash, paid tribute to Clemons , who was most recently heard on two tracks on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album and appeared in her “Edge of Glory” video.
The service was reportedly late getting started thanks to a last-minute rehearsal for the performers, which included Springsteen, Browne and some E Street Band members. Taking the stage solo, Springsteen played a tender version of the song that tells the tale of his first meeting with Clemons, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” which features the lyrics, “When the change was made uptown/ And the big man joined the band.”
The memorial also featured the gospel tune “Take My Hand Precious Lord,” a rollicking version of “How Great Thou Art,” a mournful saxophone version of “Amazing Grace” by Clemons’ nephew and an upbeat take on the 1985 Browne/Clemons tune “You’re a Friend of Mine,” performed by Springsteen, the E Street Band and Browne.
New Jersey will pay tribute to Clemons on Thursday by flying flags at half-staff in his honor. “Clarence Clemons represented the soul and spirit of New Jersey,” Governor Chris Christie told CNN. “His partnership with Bruce Springsteen and the rest of the E Street Band brought great pride to our state and joy to every fan of this music around the world.” Clemons was born in Virginia in 1942, but moved to Jersey as a youth counselor before joining Springsteen’s band.
“On a personal note, when I heard about the Big Man’s passing on Saturday night, I was struck with an overwhelming feeling that the days of my youth were now finally over,” Christie said in a statement. “My condolences to Clarence’s family and all the members of the E Street Band.”