When this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth got put in the proverbial can Friday night, the last thing we had heard about Clarence Clemons was he was -- thus far -- making a remarkable recovery from his serious stroke last week.
That didn't work out.
Clemons, the Big Man, the irreplaceable sax man of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, died Saturday at 69. With him, one would think, went the E Street Band. With him, too, went a piece of an American generation's heart.
You can't replace the Big Man.
Bruce can't replace the Big Man any more than a widowed spouse can "replace" the one who, suddenly, no longer shares a home . . . shares a life. You strike out on a new path, with new dreams and a heart that always will be missing a piece.
FOR A GENERATION of us, restless Americans of a certain age now, Clarence Clemons' tenor saxophone -- sometimes joy-filled, sometimes mournful, always soulful -- filled our hearts as Springsteen's words filled our minds and gave voice, a soaring, wondrous musical voice, to our joys, our hopes, our struggles and our fears.
Decades down the highway, they still do. Sometimes more than we could have imagined in 1978. Or 1980. Or 1984.
Only now those hopes, dreams, struggles and fears are quieter now. A little less joyful. A little less expressively mournful.
They now will be told with a lot less soul.
BUT WE REMEMBER a time when we were young, and when our proxies roared and wailed like a mighty beast. Before our advocates grew old, as did we, and the voice began to falter and fade.
In our memories, though, we still roar, and our heroes are still as young as our spirit, lurking as it is behind graying hair and expanding waistlines.
Hand me that old LP, will you. I damn time as I drink of the fountain of youth.