Clarence Clemons, saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen, dies

Clemons, known as "the Big Man" for his 6ft 5in frame and his onstage presence, was an original member of the E Street Band

Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist who helped catapult Bruce Springsteen to fame, has died aged 69 following a stroke.

Known as the "Big Man" for his 6ft 5in frame and stage presence, Clemons was an original member of Springsteen's E Street Band and has been called its "soul". In a statement, the singer said his loss was "immeasurable" and that he and his bandmates were honoured to have stood beside Clemons for nearly four decades.

Describing him as "my great friend, my partner", Springsteen added: "With Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music.

"His life, his memory and his love will live on in that story and in our band".

Fans gathered at the Stone Pony, the Jersey shore rock club in New York where the band first started out, as it opened its doors from noon in tribute.

Bryan Adams, the Canadian singer, expressed his sadness via Twitter: "RIP Clarence Clemons, one of the greatest rock sax players."

Born in Virginia, Clemons began playing saxophone aged nine, and became a professional musician after a car accident dashed his dream of being a football player. He met Springsteen in 1971, and their friendship survived his decision to concentrate on solo projects following the success of his album Born in the USA. In a 2009 interview, Clemons described his bond with The Boss, saying: "It's the most passion that you have without sex."

As well as TV and movie appearances over the years, Clemons performed with the Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band, as well as Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison and Jackson Browne, and, more recently, Lady Gaga on the television show American Idol. He was a celebrity in his own right, evidence by his jamming with former US President Bill Clinton at the 1993 inaugural ball.

Clemons was in poor health in recent years, and had been taken to hospital a week ago after a stroke at his home in Singer Island, Florida.

Contributor

Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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