I first remember hearing it when I was 8, blaring a little too loud for an 8-year-old to enjoy through my backyard speakers at a barbecue. I remember asking someone what the sound was. They closed their eyes, smiled a bit, opened them back up and said the words I would never forget: “Cori, that is Clarence Clemons.”
Shirts in the closet, shoes in the hall ... Mama’s in the kitchen, baby and all ... Everything is everything ... But you’re missing.
My hometown, hometown of the great Bruce Springsteen, is the setting for most of those songs the nation has deemed favorites (even if we just think we are). We are all on a first-name basis with him, even if we haven’t met him. Clarence was from Virginia, but if you ask anyone in Freehold where he hailed from, they would consider him an adopted son of New Jersey.
Coffee cups on the counter, jackets on the chair ... Papers on the doorstep, you’re not there ... Everything is everything ... But you’re missing.
As years went on, the “Big Man” and his saxophone guided me through my life. My last two years of high school, when all I wanted to do was get out of Freehold and start my life, I left to “Born to Run.” Through college, I danced my heart out to “Rosalita.” When I needed a sunny day, Clarence was there.
Pictures on the nightstand, TV’s on in the den ... Your house is waiting, your house is waiting for you to walk in ... But you’re missing.
When I needed a reason to believe, Clarence was there. He drove all night for me. When I left Jersey to come to Kentucky, heading straight into the storm, Clarence led me to the promised land. When I fell behind, he waited for me.
You’re missing when I shut out the lights ... You’re missing when I close my eyes ... You’re missing when I see the sun rise ... You’re missing.
Yes, he was part of the E Street Band. Yes, he was one of the 10 people on stage with the great Springsteen. But he stood out in a way that only a 6-foot-4-inch man with a flowing jacket and jazz hat could. People chanted for him. People loved him.
Children are asking if it’s all right. Will you be in our arms tonight?
The piano may start “Jungleland,” but it’s Clemons who brings it all together with his amazingly long-winded and iconic solo. The first notes of “Badlands” may send hundreds of thousands of people into a frenzy, but Clarence makes you believe in the hope that could raise you above it all. When Clarence gets a new saxophone for Christmas, the crowd always goes wild.
Morning is morning, the evening falls I have ... Too much room in my bed, too many phone calls ... How’s everything, everything? Everything is everything ... You’re missing.
So this is the end. They can bring in another saxophonist, but this is the end of an era. Springsteen will never get to yell about his minister of soul, secretary of the brotherhood. One last time, give me a C.
God’s drifting in heaven, devil’s in the mailbox ... I got dust on my shoes, nothing but teardrops.
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652.