Clarence Clemons, the beloved saxophonist for the E Street Band and called "one of the key influences in Bruce Springsteen's life and music through four decades" by the AP, died today in Florida. He had suffered a stroke about a week ago, and Springsteen's spokesman said that Clemons' death was due to complications from the stroke.

The NY Times' obituary notes that Clemons' "jovial onstage manner, soul-rooted style and brotherly relationship with Mr. Springsteen made him one of rock’s most beloved sidemen" and:

From the beginnings of the E Street Band in 1972, Mr. Clemons played a central part in Mr. Springsteen’s music, complementing the group’s electric guitar and driving rhythms in songs like “Born to Run” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” with muscular, melodic saxophone hooks that echoed doo-wop, soul and early rock ’n’ roll.

But equally important to the group’s image was the sense of affection and unbreakable camaraderie between Mr. Springsteen and his sax man. Few E Street Band shows were complete without a shaggy-dog story about the stormy night the two men met at a bar in Asbury Park, N.J., or a long bear hug between them at the end of the night.

Rolling Stone's obituary declares

, "Clemons - known affectionately to fan and friends as the Big Man"—Clemons was 6'4" and 250 pounds—"- was the heart and soul of the E Street Band. His playing on tracks like 'Born To Run,' 'Thunder Road,' 'Jungleland,' 'Dancing In The Dark' and countless more represent some of the most famous sax work in the history of rock & roll." Springsteen himself wrote in the introduction to Clemons' memoir, "The story I have told throughout my work life I could not have told as well without Clarence."

Here are a few videos of Clemons' beautiful playing—he was recently on American Idol with Lady Gaga (he plays the sax in "Edge of Glory"):


A solo in Stockholm in 2009:

"Tenth Avenue Freezeout":

On American Idol with Lady Gaga last month:

"Thunder Road":

"Born to Run" performed in 2002 (here's the video):