*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.
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.”
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.