A very large part of my heart belongs to a man named Bruce Springsteen and his band, a little group of folks we like to call E Street. Bruce and E Street were my first true loves. So when Clarence Clemons passed away nearly two weeks ago, I wept. Bruce and the band have been such a huge part of my life for so very long that it was like losing a friend. A legendary, sax-shredding friend.
And then today, the Springsteen camp published the text of Bruce’s eulogy for Clarence and I found myself in tears again. I cannot profess to fathom the depth of their 40-year friendship, but the feeling of loss that Bruce’s words convey is palpable. And the thing that makes it so human – so real – is that Bruce makes it perfectly clear that Clarence wasn’t perfect, and that neither is Bruce…but that their friendship could have surmounted any odds, because…well, that’s what friends do. They see you for who you really are and love the hell out of you for every single one of your flaws.
If you don’t want to read the full text of the eulogy, here are some of my favorite parts.
Today I see his sons Nicky, Chuck, Christopher and Jarod sitting here and I see in them the reflection of a lot of C’s qualities. I see his light, his darkness, his sweetness, his roughness, his gentleness, his anger, his brilliance, his handsomeness, and his goodness. But, as you boys know your pop was a not a day at the beach. “C” lived a life where he did what he wanted to do and he let the chips, human and otherwise, fall where they may. Like a lot of us your pop was capable of great magic and also of making quite an amazing mess. This was just the nature of your daddy and my beautiful friend. Clarence’s unconditional love, which was very real, came with a lot of conditions. Your pop was a major project and always a work in progress. “C” never approached anything linearly, life never proceeded in a straight line. He never went A… B…. C…. D. It was always A… J…. C…. Z… Q… I….! That was the way Clarence lived and made his way through the world. I know that can lead to a lot of confusion and hurt, but your father also carried a lot of love with him, and I know he loved each of you very very dearly.
Standing next to Clarence was like standing next to the baddest ass on the planet. You were proud, you were strong, you were excited and laughing with what might happen, with what together, you might be able to do. You felt like no matter what the day or the night brought, nothing was going to touch you. Clarence could be fragile but he also emanated power and safety, and in some funny way we became each other’s protectors; I think perhaps I protected “C” from a world where it still wasn’t so easy to be big and black. Racism was ever present and over the years together, we saw it. Clarence’s celebrity and size did not make him immune. I think perhaps “C” protected me from a world where it wasn’t always so easy to be an insecure, weird and skinny white boy either. But, standing together we were badass, on any given night, on our turf, some of the baddest asses on the planet. We were united, we were strong, we were righteous, we were unmovable, we were funny, we were corny as hell and as serious as death itself. And we were coming to your town to shake you and to wake you up. Together, we told an older, richer story about the possibilities of friendship that transcended those I’d written in my songs and in my music.
I try to be good about telling my friends that I love them, doing things to let them know how important they are to me, even if it’s just hanging out and having a beer. But even though I try, I know I don’t do it enough. So I just wanted to tell you all here, publicly, that I love you, and thank you for loving me and all my faults, even when I’m not so easy to love. Because when I’m standing next to you gals and guys (and you know who you are), we are some of the baddest asses on the planet. You fill my life with laughter, adventures, heart, joy, support, hangovers, personalized Sharpies, music, passions (both shared and individual), in-depth discussions on just about anything on earth, shoulders to cry on, hands to hold, and most of all, love.
Thank you for the gifts of you…Here’s to us.