I may not be as big a Bruce Springsteen fan as, say, my buddy Dave Lifton. But over the years, I’ve become as big a fan of The Boss as anyone else-it’s kinda hard to avoid if you grow up in the tri-state area.

Even if I wasn’t a Springsteen fan, though, I think I’d understand why people are so devoted to The E Street Band. Even with bands that have been around for decades, you don’t always get the feeling that they’re a band in the truest sense of the world. The thing about the E Street Band is that they come across as a family. The members are obviously dear to each other’s (and certainly Bruce’s) hearts. Even when The Boss disbanded them for a little over a decade, there didn’t seem to be much of the mudslinging that occurs when many groups break up. The respect and love, largely, was still there. And that made their reunion an even more joyous occasion. Hell, I remember selling tickets to the New York dates during that first reunion tour and the only artists I’ve seen inspire a similar type of devotion are Prince and Michael Jackson. What The Boss and his band had (and have) was (and is) something special.

Clarence Clemons’ passing, however, puts an irreplaceable tear in that bond. The most familiar member of the E Street Band without the last name Springsteen (and how could he not be? Let’s face it, not only was he literally Bruce’s right hand guy every night on tour, but he was a behemoth of a man) wound up with a level of fame that superseded the band. He popped up with his sax on records ranging from Aretha’s “Freeway of Love” to Lady Gaga’s recent “Edge of Glory”. He scored a solo hit with the Jackson Browne-assisted “You’re a Friend of Mine” (a song that’s ridiculously ’80s-tastic but still makes me smile every time I hear it). He popped up on TV and in movies all the time. However, no matter what Clarence did, it always seemed like the right place for him to be was next to Bruce, trading barbs and being the life of the party.

I’m sad not only because the music world lost a (literal and metaphorical) giant (and because I’ll never get the chance to see him onstage), but because (for lack of a more sensitive, mature term) one of the great musical bromances has come to an end. My condolences go out to not only Clarence’s blood family (including his four sons), but to the E Street Band family. Rest in peace, Big Man.

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