Flashback: Clarence Clemons, Jackson Browne Become Friends - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: Clarence Clemons Makes Friends With Jackson Browne

With a little help from Daryl Hannah, 1985’s “You’re a Friend of Mine” became Clarence Clemons’ sole hit

Bruce Springsteen took a well-deserved break after the final leg of the Born in the USA tour ended in October of 1985, but the public wasn’t ready to give him up. A month later the “My Hometown” single came out and became the seventh Top 10 hit from the album. The flip side was a live recording of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” from a Born to Run-era show 10 years earlier, but disc jockeys began playing it – and that too became a hit.

That same month, Clarence Clemons released his solo album Hero. To most people he was just the big, friendly saxophonist dancing next to Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox in the “Dancing in the Dark” video. But he was still a part Springsteen universe, and when he recruited Jackson Browne to duet with him on lead single “You’re a Friend of Mine” MTV had all the incentive they needed to put the video into rotation and drive the song to Number 18 on the Hot 100. (The same week, Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For” was Number One. America was in a very friendly mood that week.)

Jackson and Clarence had known each other for 10 years when they cut “You’re a Friend of Mine,” but nobody knew their relationship was so intense they needed to sing about it as they danced nearly nose-to-nose. The video was shot in a Los Angeles house with Browne’s then-girlfriend Daryl Hannah providing background vocals as she painted a portrait of the two friends.

“Doing ‘You’re a Friend of Mine’ was such a thrill for me to be asked,” Browne told Rolling Stone in 2011. “It probably wasn’t a song that was appropriate to have Bruce on. Maybe that would’ve been too obvious. But I was happy to be on that record. We shot the video at a house in Hollywood. Videos are usually pretty arduous, but this was fun to hang out with Clarence and [Clemons’ longtime friend] Narada Michael Walden.”

For a brief moment, it seemed like the song might launch Clemons as a solo star, but he never had another hit. It did, however, land at Number 99 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 1980s, so that’s something. The song remained a part of Clarence’s solo show for many years, and after he passed away in 2011 it was played at many tribute shows. Suddenly, it was no longer about Bruce and Clarence’s friendship but about the affection the whole world felt toward The Big Man. 

In This Article: Clarence Clemons, Jackson Browne


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