May 29, 2008
Clarence Clemons - Temple of Soul
By Carol Anne Szel
Joining efforts to create their debut CD called “Brothers In Arms,” Temple of Soul is far from a budding group of musicians. Featuring the combined artistic talents of four of the most accomplished musicians in the business, Temple of Soul is a true brew of what has been called neo-soul, pop and funk
The band is made up of Clarence Clemons who is the legendary saxophone player in Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, Narada Michaels Walden who is among Billboard’s Top Ten most successful producers of all time with three Grammy’s among his 56 number 1 hit songs with some of the greatest singers of all time, TM Stevens who has worked with Joe Cocker and James Brown, and Vernon “Ice” Black who has played and recorded with Santana, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey and more.
Need I go on? I had the very unique honor of sitting down with Mr. Clarence Clemons recently. A dream come true for this music journalist with a life-long passion for Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band’s decades of music, and what transpired was not only a great interview about the music, but a great hour-long talk about life, spirit and soul with this cherished new friend.
ALL Access Magazine: Temple of Soul and the CD “Brother’s in Arms” is a sort of musical mixture of sound, wonderfully bouncing back and forth between musical genres.
Clarence Clemons: Ha, ha. That’s it! I’m really enjoying it myself; it’s such an inspiration for me to do this kind of music.
AAM: Is it a combination of all of your musical backgrounds?
CC: We all come from different schools, but it’s all the same. We all go together in one stew and it’s very tasty.
AAM: How did you all hook up?
CC: I met Narada when he produced Aretha Franklin’s platinum “Freeway Of Love” cd, which was back in the day. And he became my spiritual brother. Then I met TM and Vernon through Narda. We always wondered what it would be like to make a record together, then one day the stars all aligned and we made a record together. It’s a wonderful album and I’m very proud of it.
AAM: The players in Temple of Soul are all so accomplished in your own right, and to bring all that talent together is magical.
CC: The four of us have done so much music; the four of us have come together and put it on this album. All the flavors, it’s a big soul stew!
AAM: Are you going on tour with Temple of Soul?
CC: I really hope so, when I’m done with the Springsteen tour.
AAM: With Bruce Springsteen, you’re the Big Man, you’re a larger than life musical figure.
CC: I don’t think it’s only my saxophone, it’s who I am. I don’t know if I told you this before, but my spiritual guide who I met through Narada told me that my purpose in life was to bring joy into the world. He didn’t know about my music, he didn’t know who I was. He saw my heart, he saw my soul, and he saw my determination for this life.
AAM: And your vehicle to bring this to the world is your saxophone.
CC: Yes. That’s exactly how I look at it, as a vehicle to move my spirit around.
AAM: When you were younger and met Bruce Springsteen, you are well known for having that blind determination in knowing you were going to make it. The legends of you and Bruce practically living on the boardwalk in Asbury Park sticking it out until catching the ear and the attention of the music industry.
CC: I knew it when I first met him. Because he was what I was looking for and I was what he was looking for. When we met it felt real for me, it felt real for both of us.
AAM: When you were starting out like that, what’s the perseverance needed to follow your musical dreams like that?
CC: To have faith in what you’re doing, have vision. When I first met Bruce I saw it all happening. I know it would happen.
AAM: And bringing in a saxophone to a rock band back then was not the norm.
CC: Yeah, back then they weren’t doing it. The sax was always there in the beginning of rock, but then they said it wasn’t loud enough and then the guitar came in. And it was loud and aggressive and kind of pushed the saxophone back. I’d like to think that I had something to do with bringing it back to rock and roll!
AAM: It still gives me chills when Bruce announces you on the stage each night, and obviously a great number of E-Street fans around the world too. What is it about you that bring such joy when you’re on stage? I mean you get the arena fans on their feet in a roaring cheer every night, is that part of that joyful spirit you speak of?
CC: I grew up in the church. I never listened to rock and roll when I was growing up. I lived with my grandfather a lot and he never allowed that kind of music in his house. And in church, when the choir sang it opened my heart, what it did to other people. I just saw how people got swept up by the music, the songs, feeling it deep in the soul. The music was rejoicing, cleansing, in the most beautiful way.
AAM: You’re known to be a great guy, Bruce Springsteen’s lifelong true friend, just an amazing person as well as musician with your own unmistakable sound.
CC: Thank you, that’s the biggest tribute that you can have. One of the best things that ever happens in this life for me definitely is when people hear my saxophone and they say they heard it and knew it was me. That’s great, that people recognize your feeling.
Now I’m not the fastest, my style is not like a lot of sax players, I don’t do what they’re doing.. But I play the notes you need to hear, I play the notes and reach them, you know? What I do is not a lot, but what I do I manage to get the job done.
AAM: With Springsteen, when you play a song like ‘Jungle Land’ you tell a story, like you’re bleeding through your notes.
CC: Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s joy. The saxophone is really an extension of me; it’s what I’m saying without words. It’s my heart, my emotions, my real feeling through the sax. And when I can do that then I’ve done my job.
AAM: How do you keep that musical passion alive after all these years?
CC: Music is who I am, so it’s what I do. I am the music and the music is me. I’ve been through a lot of (physical) pain. But it’s the music that keeps me alive. When I play music, thank the Lord, it’s healing to me. It makes everything okay.
AAM: When did you know you were going to pursue music in your life?
CC: I was nine years old. I envisioned the whole thing. I envisioned what I am doing right now when I was nine years old. I wanted an electric train for Christmas and they bought me a saxophone. I said “This train has no wheels on it!”
AAM: So what did your family say when you said you were going to be a musician?
CC: Well, they still think I’m crazy! My family still thinks I’m kind of nuts but they love it when they see what I do and when they see the results of what I do. They understand why now, they understand.
AAM: Well Clarence, I’ve been a huge Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band fan for nearly three decades and obviously a huge fan of yours. What are your parting words?
CC: The universe if there to give you what you want, you just need to be there to get it. What you put out is what you get back.
Indeed! Well if you’d like to get back some amazingly rich sound into your life, get a hold of Temple of Soul’s CD “Brother’s In Arms.” For information on the band, get yourself over to www.myspace.com/templeofsoul. Or go to TempleOfSoul@yahoo.com It is well worth the soulful journey!