Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mark's Bookshelf 12.1.2009

Finished up Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales by Clarence Clemons and Don Reo just before the Thanksgiving trip.

Most definitely a fun book, and an interesting look into what it's really like for the Big Man to tour. The answer involves far more pain and dedication than I ever suspected. For example, Clarence spent every moment when not on stage for the E-Street Band Super Bowl appearance in a wheelchair. When Bruce told him he could sit down after a wide shot during "Born To Run," Clarence replies, "I won't sit down."

Don Reo is the co-writer in a very transparent way. Chapters are headed with which man actually wrote them. Don gives his impressions as an outsider on the inside, and what it's really like to be a friend of the Big Man. Clarence, of course, speaks from the inside. This allows the book to become more than a simple artist's memoir, and you really feel like you're getting a pretty well-rounded view of the life.

What it's not is any sort of tell-all book. Clarence is honest about his own past and drug use, for example, but never implicates Springsteen. In fact, he says he and Danny Federici had to hide their pot smoking from Bruce. He also expends not one word on Springsteen's personal life, and little about his own, other than that he is still friendly with all 5 ex-wives, and loves his children.

There are some strange digressions. Sections called "legends" are scattered in the book, offset by the pages being a light gray. In these sections we get "tall tales" of Clemons' life. There are short sections that introduce each tale, and comment on the likelihood of their reality. In most cases, it's pretty much just off-the-wall myth-making, but, by copping to this, I forgave it. Plus, many of the tales are truly entertaining. (I especially liked the "Bruce and C in wierd locations" stories, but then...I'm me.)

The ultimate feeling you get from this book is the deep love Clarence has for what he does, and how much it means to him to never miss a show, no matter how much pain he's in. (And, I remember the early days of the Magic tour....the Big Man looked like he was just about on his last legs.) Also apparent is his great, great love for the Boss. He still listens to Springsteen's records, and marvels at the songwriting.

In Reo's sections, he muses over how long Clemons can keep up this sort of touring schedule, but Clarence never even mentions it. I don't think it even crosses his mind to step down from his place with the band. It's clear he loves it too much, and the joyus look on his face at recent shows I've seen make it abundantly clear.

Reccommended if you find the subject at all interesting.

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