Sunday, November 1, 2009

Clarence Clemons - Big Man: Real Life And Tall Tales

Every Sunday The Rock and Roll Guru reviews a new or classic music CD, DVD, or a rocking book.

After consuming Clarence Clemons’ autobiography, Big Man, one gets the feeling that if you ran into Clarence at a bar, bought him a drink, and told him a great story, he’d want to hang out with you for the rest of the evening. Clarence loves to tell a story as well as to hear one. His affection for the fans and his appreciation of the lifestyle he has is unprecedented. He realizes that not many people are blessed the way he has been blessed, and Clarence Clemons is thankful for every moment.

If you’re looking for the definitive story of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, this is not it. This is a book of stories told by Clarence Clemons and Don Rea that show the highlights of the life of The Big Man. Stories that fans have wanted to hear from an insider’s mouth for years are not included here. Why Steven VanZandt left the band in 1984 never to return until the 90s is not spoken about. Key moments in Bruce Springsteen history are not detailed between the pages. How Max Weinberg joined the band is not discussed. However, the stories that are included, the key moments in Clarence’s life, are extremely entertaining and serve a precise purpose. They leave the reader wanting more. A lot more.

That’s not to say that Big Man isn’t a great book, because it is, especially for fans of Clarence Clemons, or Bruce Springsteen, or the E-Street Band. It’s just that Big Man isn’t the book where the fans questions on intimate things are answered. There is a little insight given into certain areas, like when Bruce called Clarence to tell him that he was breaking up the band in the early 90s, or the wild man that Danny Federici really was. Beyond that, there’s not much. The affection that Clarence has for Bruce is apparent, and it is evident that Springsteen feels the same way toward the Big Man. That respect and admiration leaves out a lot of mud dragging longtime fans were yearning for.

While the stories of the early days of Bruce and Clarence hanging out on the Jersey shore in between gigs are scarce, the ones that are told paint a definitive picture of what life was like before the fame. It’s a more innocent time for the musicians, where dreams and hopes and desires are built and cached into the music which would become humongous for them and provide them with a lifestyle beyond all of their wildest expectations. It would have been nice to have a lot more coverage of the early days.

Well written in the vein of Bob Dylan’s Chronicles Volume One, Big Man is a series of vignettes recounted in a way a friend would tell you a story (or stories) over a few beers. Some information is given and gleaned, but not a lot, and not a lot of the heavier moments that would make for great drama. In Big Man it is revealed that Clarence is a man with a positive attitude and spirit that loves a good joke as much as a good song. He recounts the happier times of his life in the E-Street Band and upon finishing Big Man you realize that Clarence isn’t one to sling the tales from the mud. He’s much too positive for that type of storytelling. Those looking for the deep dirt will have to wait for another biography or scour the many unauthorized writings in existence; Big Man tells no negative tales.

Ryo’s Rating: B+ A very entertaining read and recap of the life of the Big Man himself.

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