While we wait for an official statement about Clarence Clemons’ condition following his stroke, good news has been trickling in. A “close friend” of the E Street Band saxophonist recently told the Springsteen fanzine Backstreets that his condition is improving. “Yesterday, it did not look good at all,” the source said. “Today . . . miracles are happening. His vital signs are improving. He’s responsive. His eyes are welling up when we’re talking to him. He was paralyzed on his left side, but now he’s squeezing with his left hand. This is the best news we’ve heard since [the stroke] happened — it’s nothing short of miraculous. The next five days will still be critical. But he’s a fighter.”
That report is consistent with what Fox 5 New York has heard: “His vital signs are improving. He’s responsive. He was paralyzed on his left side, but was squeezing with his left hand.”
Rolling Stone has reached out to the Springsteen and Clemons camps for comment and will update when we have additional information.
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In February I conducted a telephone interview with Clemons when the news came out that he was playing sax on the new Lady Gaga album Born This Way. He was in such a jovial mood that I used the opportunity to ask Clemons a handful of burning questions. Here’s that previously unpublished segment of the interview:
How is your health these days?
Good. You know, something like this [playing with Lady Gaga] makes me feel a lot better. It’s so inspiring – plus the possibility of going on tour with her. Wouldn’t that be great?
You had back surgery recently, right?
Yeah, spinal surgery. I had both my knees replaced, I had some fusion and some L2s, L5s and a lift on the left side.
Are there any more surgeries planned?
I don’t know what else they can do. What else is left to replace? I got everything just about covered now.
The fans are fascinated by the recording of Nebraska and whether or not the full band tried to record those songs.
Oh, I think when Bruce brings the band in on music when he knows what he wants. It’s not a matter of “try it and make it fit.” It fits naturally or it does not.
So the band did not try to record those songs as a full band?
No, as a full band, I don’t think so.
What did you think about the music on Human Touch and Lucky Town when they came out?
At that point in his life, that is what he wanted to say and what he want do to. If it’s a question about [liking them more than] Born To Run or Darkness On The Edge of Town, I don’t know. I’m a Bruce fan and whatever he does is fine with me.
I’ve read that you love “Sad Eyes.”
I love it. It’s one of his greatest vocal tracks.
The Smoking Gun posted a tour rider from 2002. It said that at 9:45 p.m. a “whole fresh roasted chicken” is to be “boxed and placed in your dressing room.” Did you really eat an entire roast chicken in the middle of the show?
No, but I did have dinner after the show.
But obviously not right in the middle of it…
No, no! [Laughs hysterically] Jeez, there wasn’t time to get off and eat. That’s a funny think to think about. [Laughs even harder]. But I mean the person that wrote that never saw the band playing. There’s no way that could have happened.
You almost played for the Cleveland Browns, right?
Almost! I was going in as a free agent, trying out for the team. I went down and tried out for the team, but I was in a car accident that knocked me out of football.
Do you ever think of how different your life might have been had you not been in that car accident?
Well yeah, it would have been a lot different. That’s why some things happen in your life. You can’t understand why it happened, but it happened for a reason. And if you’re wise enough to see it and understand it, it makes your life a lot easier – instead of complaining all the time, yada yada yada. You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt. I never thought I’d be a quote “rock & roll star.” I just loved to play, and then I met Bruce right after this car accident.
One last question: in the mid-Eighties, who could have bench-pressed more – you or Bruce?
Me, definitely. Without a doubt. [Laughs]. I don’t know about now though…