Our Top 10 Clarence Clemons Saxophone Solos list takes a look back at the best Clarence Clemons Saxophone Solos on Bruce Springsteen songs and more. It was a devastating loss for Bruce Springsteen, music fans and of course the family of Clarence Clemons when Clarence Clemons passed away on June 18, 2011. The man was such an important part of the Bruce Springsteen sound and a towering figure on stage standing next to one of the greatest performers who has ever lived. Everyone loved Clarence Clemons. He had a sort of Santa Clause spirit with an abundance of cool and soul. He seemed like everyone’s big brother. As big as his personality was on stage and off, it was his sound that will also never be forgotten. No one sounded like Clarence Clemons on the saxophone.
We could easily do a top 100 Clarence Clemons Saxophone solos list because he sounded brilliant on every song he performed on. The man brought so much energy and life to each solo he played. There was never any mistaking Clarence Clemons He had his own unique sound. The majority of his work was with Bruce Springsteen. However, Clarence Clemons did release a handful of solo albums and had a pretty big hit with Jackson Browne called “Your A Friend Of Mine,” which was released on the second Clarence Clemons solo record. Clarence Clemons also recorded with many other musical artists through the years from Greg Lake of ELP and King Crimson to Lady Gaga. That defines how wide a range of artists there were who wanted to work with Clarence Clemons.
There were so many to choose from. We picked 10 that we thought were essential in showcasing his work with various artists including Bruce and his own solo stuff.
# 10 -Resurrection Shuffle
We open up our Top 10 Clarence Clemons Saxophone Solos list with the rock and roll full of soul song entitled “Resurrection Shuffle.” This is a cranking rocker that we just had to present on this list. The song was released on the album entitled Rescue. The album was released in 1983. This was the only album released by Clerence Clemons’ band called Clarence Clemons & the Red Bank Rockers. Clarence ignites an electrifying rock and roll solo full of staccato notes that sounds just perfect against the song’s furious tempo and feel.
# 9 -Back In Your Arms
Continuing with our Top 10 Clarence Clemons Saxophone Solos list we take a listen to the emotionally gripping song entitled “Back In Your Arms.” Not all of Clarence Clemons’ saxophone solos were big sounding fierce rock and roll performances. Of course, he was known for his huge sound and his majestic performances. Yet at times, he could be really tender when it was called for. That was the magic of Clarence Clemons, he played to the song, not the solo. He always added to a song no matter what style of music, or who he was performing. with.
“Back In Your Arms.” stands as one of Bruce Springsteens’ most beautiful ballads. It’s unbelievable that the song was actually an outtake and never made it onto any of Bruce Springsteen’s studio albums outside of the box sets and compilations. Clarence Clemons’ saxophone solo comes in at the end of the song. It’s a touching performance that defines the concept of less is more and it’s the notes that you do play that really count.
# 8 – Unchain My Heart
Now talk about soul! The pairing of Clarence Clemons and Joe Cocker together on this amazing track “Unchain My Heart,” was a match made so perfectly. Once again, Clarence Clemens showcases the soulfulness in his heart. So much of his work with Bruce Springsteen was just based on straight ahead rock and roll. If you dig deep into the Clarence Clemons’ catalog of collaborations, you will find so much music like this. Clarence Clemens swings a solo so beautifully and it’s some pretty high notes in this one quite possibly the highest notes we’ve ever heard him hit. The song was released on the Joe Cocker album entitled Unchain My Heart. The album was released in 1987.
# 7 – Your A Friend Of Mine
Everything about this one is just so fabulous. From Clarence Clemons’ soulful vocal to the very cool video featuring Daryl Hannah and Jackson Browne, and of course, the great song. This one had to be on the list. The song actually opens up with the great Clarence Clemens solo that attacks and catches the listener’s attention right away. The solo in the middle of the song is not a scorcher, t but it’s just perfect for the tune and in the end, it’s always just about the tune and how the solo complements the tune. That’s why we’ve chosen this great song that was Clarence Clement’s biggest solo single.
# 6 – Freeway Of Love
Landing in the number six spot on our Top 10 Clarence Clemons Saxophone Solos list we present the soul-kicking solo from Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway Of Love.” Looking slim and full of style, Clarence Clemons immediately lights up this track. The song starts off with a Clarence Clemens solo that just bleeds R&B soul. But Clarence isn’t finished. He comes back about 2/3 of the way through and knocks it out of the park once again with another fantastic rhythm and blues solo. On the songs out, you can hear him soling away again. The song was released on the album entitled Who’s Zoomin’ Who? The album was released in 1985. It was the first single released from the album. The song was a hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 peaking at number three. It was Aretha Franklin’s biggest hit record since the early 1970s.
# 5 – Bobby Jean
It was nine years since Bruce Springsteen had released Born To Run when Born In The U.S.A. came out in 1984. That album turned Bruce Springsteen into the biggest star in the world at the time right next to Prince and Madonna. The song that caught most long-time Brice fans right away was “Bobby Jean.” It was a powerful goodbye to Steven Van Zant who had left the band to pursue a solo career. Clarence Clemons’ majestic solo took this one home after Bruce Springsteen sang his final goodbye. You can hear Clarence saying goodbye too.
# 4 – Trapped
At the number four spot on our Top 10 Clarence Clemons Saxophone Solos list we present the crying bluesy solo from the live recording of the song entitled “Trapped.” Clarence plays with so much emotion on this one. It’s a bit low in the mix, but you can feel the power of the big man’s heart as he wails live on the stage during this very endearing performance. The song “Trapped,” was originally written by Jimmy Cliff . This live version first appeared on the We Are The World album. It was later released on The Essential Bruce Springsteen compilation CD set.
# 3 – Badlands
Moving along on our Top 10 Clarence Clemons Saxophone Solos list we present the Clarence Clemons’ Saxophone Solo in the high-spirited Bruce Springsteen song entitled “Badlands.” It’s not a long solo, it’s not complex, but it’s powerful. It’s an important moment in the song that follows Bruce Springsteen’s guitar solos and further defines the meaning behind the song. That’s what a great solo does. It’s not about standing alone but rather working in unison further promoting the emotional power of the entire song and band performance. That’s what made Clarence Clemons the MVP of the E Street Band.
# 2 – Born To Run
Just off the top spot on our Top 10 Clarence Clemons Saxophone Solos list, we celebrate Clarence Clemons’ solo in the song entitled “Born To Run.” This was the song that put Bruce Springsteen on the map forever. The fever had been brewing for a few years, but with the release of this album and the song “Born to Run,” Bruce changed the landscape of music for a long time. There are so many reasons why this song stands as one of the greatest of all time and standing right in the middle of all those reasons is Clarence Clemons’ brilliant saxophone solo. It’s one of Clarence Clemons’ most furious solos he has ever played on record. It’s note for note perfect.
# 1 – Jungleland
We close out our Top 10 Clarence Clemons Saxophone Solos list with the phenomenal song entitled “Jungleland.” I remember one night I was listening to “Jungleland,” in my bedroom when I was 15 in 1975 and my father who had been raised on the music of the 30s and 40s and never listened to rock music came into the room and said, ” wow that’s really beautiful.” That’s how powerful Clarence Clemons’ solo was on this song. It transcended generations due to the emotionally powerful spirit that Clarence put into it. Anyone who ever witnessed Clarence Clemons play the sax solo in “Jungleland” on stage was lifted spiritually into another reality. If you were alive, it had to of had that type of effect on you. This was a magical moment in all of classic rock history. For those unfamiliar with the song “Jungleland,” it was released on the Born To Run album in 1975. It was the album’s closing song.
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IMO, definitely agree Clarence Clemons’ personal-best sax solo, if not in all of rock history.
(I have a few close contenders, though, if there is an article about sax solos in rock music).
I can play the song repeatedly, and I am repeatedly engulfed in that solo section.
Saw the tribute band “Bruce In The U.S.A.” several times, (plug here – excellent show) and their sax player nails it, keeping Clarence’s legacy, and contributions, intact.
I believe his nephew really is excellent at playing his songs the way he would have seen fit.
To Carol’s point, Jake does an admirable job, and is an accomplished musician.
My last comment was that “Bruce In The U.S.A” is a viable, much more affordable, and much more accessible alternative to the E-Street Band, for multitudes of fans of Bruce Springsteen who, for their own personal reasons, or live in an area where the band doesn’t tour, are unable to attend the real deal.
Same goes for “Beginnings”, a Chicago” tribute band, and “Hotel California”, an Eagles tribute band, of many examples.
When you attend one of their shows, you can close your eyes, and you would hardly know the difference.
Granted, not the originals, but many of our classic rock acts are dying off, not performing at all; or worse yet, many classic rock acts are becoming tribute bands of themselves, by no direct lineage to the “classic line-ups”.