Music Review | Tall tales from a big man

Andrew Shilling
Staff Writer

Clarence Clemons, the saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, just finished the talk show circuit promoting his new autobiography, “Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales.” You might have seen him on the Daily Show With Jon Stewart or heard him on the Howard Stern Show a few weeks ago, telling stories that may or may not be complete fabrications.

The book is a collection of short stories from Clemons’ life, some of which he calls tall tales, or “gray areas,” appropriately printed on gray pages and others that are rooted in the truth. While this is a unique approach to writing a memoir, it’s a smart idea, and a good way to protect the countless celebrities he’s run into over the last three decades from his hazy recollections.

In one of the “gray area” chapters in the book, Clemons plays pool against Fidel Castro, while on vacation in Cuba with Hunter S. Thompson. As the story goes, Thompson had an interview with Castro and knowing of his love for fine cigars, invites Clemons along for the ride. After Thompson doses Castro’s security guard with a few hits of LSD, Clemons proceeds to play a $1000 a ball game against the former Cuban dictator.

Does it matter that the story of Robert De Niro telling Clemons a secret for him to keep exactly 25 years, after randomly running into one another on some island in the Caribbean is printed on gray pages? Yes, it makes you wonder how much of the good stuff in this book is fabricated. However, you might find yourself not really caring, and even enjoying his storytelling. Besides maybe one story about Springsteen and Clarence gallivanting around town with Hideki Matsui, you can rest assured that his recollections of the E Street Band’s 30-year career on the road, in the recording studio and leisurely surfing on the beach, are all clearly printed on the white pages.

Don Reo, the executive producer of television shows like “Blossom” and “My Wife and Kids” and Clemons’ long time friend, helped to co-write the book. Reo provides a unique outsider’s look on a potentially legendary piece of rock and roll history. Reo, a Springsteen fan, tells stories about standing backstage with the band, riding on the tour bus and hanging out on personal jets. Toward the end of the book, the 67-year-old gets into the countless numbers of surgeries he is currently undergoing, all of which are for his final tour with the band. Clemons wrote, “Maybe I’ll write a book that has all the sex and drugs stories from the early years, and publish it after all of us are dead.”

Does this mean there could be a sequel? Maybe he wants to clear up some of this “gray area,” or maybe he has more tall tales in the bank. Either way, through the cleverly composed book, Clemons makes it clear that he is a genuinely grateful for everything in his life and leaves the reader happy to ponder his thoughts for the next 30 years.

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