A private memorial service for saxophone player Clarence Clemons, ‘The Big Man’ in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, is held at Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach, Fla. on June 21, 2011.

*Family and friends gathered for a private memorial service in Palm Beach, Fla., honoring Big Man Clarence Clemons on Tuesday, including some of his ex-wives.

Clemons had asked his widow Victoria, his fifth wife, to scatter his ashes at a cherished spot in Hawaii and to do so with “all of the special women in his life” – including his previous wives.

Speaking at her husband’s memorial service at the Royal Poinciana Chapel on Tuesday, Victoria told 150 friends and family members – including three of the four ex-wives, who were seated near her at the service – that she would do exactly that.

Clemons, saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, died Saturday from complications of a stroke he suffered a week earlier. He was 69. Clemons’ brother, a career Marine who is now an ordained minister, sat at the altar next to the Rev. Robert Norris.

Maureen and Steven Van Zandt head to the reception after the memorial service Tuesday for Clarence Clemons.

The private, by-invitation service was a bit late getting started due to a last-minute rehearsal for the performers, including Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne and the E Street Band.

Springsteen, playing solo, offered a softened, almost tender version of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, the song that recalls his first meeting with Clemons in an Asbury Park bar on a snowy day.

Springsteen went on to eulogize his friend – breaking down only once, when describing that first meeting – as a man not only big in stature, but big in heart and spirit.

He said Clemons was hardly the uncomplicated man many thought him to be.

“Clarence was a man of unconditional love, but his love came with a lot of conditions,” he said, drawing chuckles and murmurs of agreement from many in the assemblage. “He was a complex guy … an ongoing project. But when you were in his presence, it was like being in a sovereign nation.”


Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patti Scialfa leave the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach, Fla. after a memorial service for Clarence Clemons, a long time friend and saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.


In addition to the gospel song Take My Hand Precious Lord and a thundering version of How Great Thou Art by the chapel’s organist, the music included a mournful saxophone solo of Amazing Grace performed by Clemons’ nephew.

The service ended with a rollicking, upbeat – except for the perpetually morose Browne – rendition of You’re a Friend of Mine, Clemons’ 1985 hit with Browne, performed by Springsteen, the E Street Band and Browne.

A private reception in the chapel’s fellowship hall followed the service.

In addition to his wife, nephew, and brother, he is survived by his four sons Clarence, called Nick; Charles, Christopher and Jarod; and a sister.