not to be

I wanted Clarence Clemons to live, to be well, to stay on the road.

That it didn’t come out that way reminds me forcefully of how big the world is and how it keeps turning, to rules either natural or supernatural or both, and that any old way you believe, we only get to see the tiniest of slivers of its glory.

Clarence was part of that glory, and like any great poem, on a good night (and there were so many!) his part could stand for the whole.

Looking at the obituaries this morning, my favorite quote was from the WaPost:

Mr. Clemons was once asked why he received almost as much applause as Springsteen on their shows together.

“It’s because of my innocence,” he said. “I have no agenda — just to be loved. Somebody said to me, ‘Whenever somebody says your name, a smile comes to their face.’ That’s a great accolade. I strive to keep it that way.”

And in an unlikely place, some words that get it right.


2 thoughts on “not to be

  1. Both the Showbiz 411 article and yours get it right — Clarence Clemons WAS Bruce Springsteen. He was the rage and passion and glory of Springsteen’s soul.

    Only quibble with the Showbiz 411 piece is that it is exactly one line too long. Chop off the final line and you’ve got a great piece from, yes, an unexpected place.

    Even tabloidists have their passions, I suppose.

  2. As writing, the 411 article ends far more eloquently at “And he was never on “the edge of glory.” He was right in the center of it,” rather than “Rest in peace, Clarence. You will not be forgotten.”

    As eulogy, most people would think the second line is required, especially if you view what you’re doing less as writing and more as long distance talking. (“We can’t all be at the funeral but here’s what I’d say if I was.”)

    The “Rest in peace” can also be redeemed by its heartfeltness, which is particularly appropriate in this case. Springsteen hasn’t shied away from cornball lines since at least ‘The River,’ and one of the real pleasures of the last 20 years or so of listening to him has been how close he can come to the obvious and still pull it off.

    So when you write as a fan, as Friedman does here, saying what anybody would say is less a weakness and more a gesture of solidarity, a way of saying “I know exactly how you’re feeling because I feel it too, and we share a language.”

    Did he think about all this when he wrote it? Of course not. But at some level, this is what informed his decision to go one line further.

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