Clarence Anicholas Clemons Jr., a towering 6-foot-6 saxophonist and composer, was born on January 11, 1942, in Norfolk, Virginia, in the segregated Norfolk Community Hospital, to Clarence Anicholas “Nick” Clemons Jr., Sr., owner of The Clemons’ Seafood Market” on Liberty Street in the Berkley neighborhood, and Thelma Reid Clemons, a graduate of Norfolk He was the oldest of four children, with Geraldine, Daniel, and William Clemons as siblings. They were raised in South Norfolk.
Clemons began saxophone lessons when he was nine years old, and he sang in the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Berkley. He was in the Concert, Marching, and Jazz Bands at Crestwood Senior High School by the ninth grade. Clemons graduated in 1960 and attended Maryland State University on music and football scholarships (now the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore). He majored in sociology while also playing football as a lineman.
In 1961, while still in college, he joined his first professional band, the Vibrations. In 1962, as he approached his junior year, Clemons relocated to Newark, New Jersey, where he worked as a counselor at Janesburg Training School for Boys until 1970.
Clemons joined the as-yet-unnamed The E Street Band, which featured Bruce Springsteen as lead singer, in 1972. Clemmons was known in the band for his memorable solos on songs like “Dancing in the Dark,” a 1984 hit.
Clemons formed the Red Bank Rocker band in 1981 and released albums and singles on CBS Records, including Rescue (1983), Hero (1985), and the 1986 duet “Let The Music Say It” with singer Jackson Browne. The duo also performed “You’re A Friend Of Mine,” which peaked at number 18, stayed on the charts for 19 weeks, and reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. Clemons also appeared as a special guest star in an episode of the NBC sitcom Diff’rent Strokes in 1985.
Clemons rounded up the decade with the album A Night With Mr. C, which featured two old cover songs, “Twistin’ The Night Away” and “Quarter to Three.” He then went on tour with Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band in Japan.
Clemons produced the album Peacemaker in the following decade, 1990.
At 2002, he released Live in Asbury Park. In addition, he played Roman, a community basketball coach, in the third season of HBO’s The Wire, in the episodes “Amsterdam” and “Moral Midgetry” in 2004. Clemons released the album Live in Asbury Park, Vol. II in 2010.
Clemons has four sons, Charles, Christopher, Jarod, and Clarence III, from five marriages. However, in 2008, he married Swedish model Victoria Clemons. There were no children present.
Clemons was given praise for his deep vibe on Lady Gaga’s mega-hit studio album Born This Way in 2011. Clarence Anicholas Clemons Jr. died on June 18, 2011, in West Palm Beach, Florida, after symptoms from a severe stroke. He was 69.
Clemons was inducted into the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.