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New Jersey to honor Springsteen sideman Clarence Clemons

By the CNN Wire Staff
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E Street Band legendary sax player dies
  • Clemons died at age 69 at a Florida hospital, a week after suffering a stroke
  • Flags in New Jersey will be flown at half-staff on Thursday
  • New Jersey Gov. Christie calls Clemons the "soul and spirit" of the state
  • Clemons last public performance was in May when he took the stage with Lady Gaga

(CNN) -- Flags in New Jersey will be flown at half-staff Thursday in honor of E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died of complications from a stroke.

"Clarence Clemons represented the soul and spirit of New Jersey," said Gov. Chris Christie. "His partnership with Bruce Springsteen and the rest of the E Street Band brought great pride to our state and joy to every fan of this music around the world."

Clemons, 69, died Saturday at a hospital in Palm Beach, Florida, where he was undergoing treatment after suffering a stroke.

Clemons was born in 1942 in Virginia and began playing the saxophone by age 9. He moved to New Jersey, where he worked as a youth counselor, before joining Springsteen's E Street Band.

Clemons, who was dubbed "Big Man" by friends because of his imposing stature, made his last musical appearance in May when he took the stage with Lady Gaga on Fox's "American Idol" to perform "The Edge of Glory."

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"On a personal note, when I heard about the Big Man's passing on Saturday night, I was struck with an overwhelming feeling that the days of my youth were now finally over," Christie said in a statement. "My condolences to Clarence's family and all the members of the E Street Band."

Clemons, whose fusing of blues, jazz and funk with rock on the saxophone put him in demand, recorded with a number of artists over the years, including Aretha Franklin, Jackson Browne and the Grateful Dead.