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Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales
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Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  623 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
For the first time ever comes the inside story of Clarence "Big Man" Clemons--his life before, during and beyond the E-Street Band, including unbelievable, never-before-told adventures with Bruce Springsteen, the band, and an incredible cast of other famous characters recounted by himself and his best friend, television writer/ producer Don Reo.

Here are just a few things y
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Published October 21st 2009 by Grand Central Publishing (first published October 1st 2009)
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Jun 02, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, music
Why does one read a rock and roll memoir? For larger than life stories and insights into the music, mostly. This had a lot of the former, less of the latter. It had a bizarre format, jumping through time and space like Billy Pilgrim. Clarence and his co-writer, his best friend Don Reo, alternate stories. There was a lot of emphasis on the pain that the Big Man has been playing through in the last few years (knee replacements, hip replacements, bad back). At first I was a little annoyed at the fr ...more
Jun 22, 2014 TL rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: music fans
Recommended to TL by: Saw it in Books-a-million
Shelves: favorites
Third time trying to write this haha, stupid phone decides when i've typed enough and decides to scroll up on its own and won't let me type anymore *glares*

I had a wonderful time with this book... Don and Clarence are excellent storytellers. .. I could listen to them all day long and not get bored:-)

I really enjoyed hearing the early days of Clarence's life and the early career of the band. Some of the stories and 'legends' were really funny.... the Norman Mailer ones were two of my favorites.

Jessica Bacho
Feb 21, 2010 Jessica Bacho rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was a bit leery about picking up this book because I'd read horrible reviews of it. But I thought that perhaps people expected too much, or Bruce's dirty little secrets, or whatever. I should have paid attention to the reviews. Now, don't get me wrong, I adore Bruce and Clarence, but I just didn't see the point of this book. The co-author interjected way too much, and seemed more interested in promoting his career or name-dropping than anything related to Clarence. Clarence...well, he seemed m ...more
Adam Sharp
Oct 07, 2009 Adam Sharp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Springsteen takes his music seriously -- and most biographies (like Two Hearts, etc.) are just as serious. Good books, yes, but heavy on the chin-stroking. In Big Man, Clemons reveals a philosophy of life best paraphrased as "If Bruce won't party like a Rock Star, I guess I have to for both of us." What results is a very good, breezy read that gives a unique taste of the fun, gang-of-friends side of the E Street journey. Don Reo's chapters remind a bit of "Almost Famous," giving the mega-s ...more
Apr 20, 2010 Rich rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, memoirs, biography
I may hate Bruce Springsteen's politics, but I love the man's music. So I couldn't wait to read this. But it was a big disappointment.

Springsteen's sax player, Clarence Clemons and his best friend TV producer (MASH, Punky Brewster)Don Reo, give a very untraditional memoir here, one that borders on stream-of-concsiousness drifting from one subject to the next, with no real coherence to any kind of chronology or story, until the end, and we almost get a blow by blow of Clemons' double knee replac
David Murgo
Mar 25, 2011 David Murgo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, given that I've been a Springsteen fan for most of my life (since "The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle), I have to say I went into this book hoping it would be a good read. I ended up really loving it - second only to Dave Marsh's earlier Bruce works.

The details regarding the shared friendship between Bruce and Clarence and the now epic mythology of their story was both revealing and somehow reassuring. I'd always hoped that the friendship portrayed in all the media hype over
Dec 28, 2009 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read most of this book during a very long day a air travel. It's a quick read and very enjoyable. There were a few parts that made me laugh pretty hard. Although I love Springsteen and the E Street Band, I don't know a lot of their histories, so I did learn a bit more about Clarence than most people who would read this book. I enjoyed the semi-fictitious sections as they reminded me of Charles Mingus' 'autobiography'. I liked the double narrators, although I wish that there had been some expla ...more
Mar 07, 2014 Rob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
My wife picked this book up for me more-or-less randomly. I was a fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as a teenager, and I was lucky enough to be at one of their concerts from the Born in the USA tour, but I haven't listened to them much lately. The book would have gone to the bottom of the pile, but this was the only book on the bedside table one evening, so I started reading.

Rather than telling the Big Man's story the traditional way, this book is made up of a series of stories abou
Kasa Cotugno
We all knew Clarence Clemons expressed himself passionately, beautifully through his sax, but most of us who only saw him on stage didn't know it didn't end there -- that he was a storyteller par excellence. This, his memoir, is like no other -- what really happened, what didn't happen, what might have been -- who cares if the legends aren't fact? The bullshit is so much fun, and some of it might have been true. My favorite is a recapitulation of a car trip with Bruce (a notoriously bad driver), ...more
Dec 24, 2009 Justin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Clarence Clemons is not one to be fucked with, Bruce Springsteen is indeed a really awesome guy away from the spotlight and this book is chock full of goofy asides that are normally covered in the typical biography type books...
Dec 20, 2009 A rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Tall tales more than real life, I suspect. Maybe only of interest to die-yard Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band fans? This book was lent to me, when I lent the Andrew Loog Oldham STONED book in trade. They got the better deal.
Jul 04, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's really hard to review a memoir, especially a memoir one reads so soon after the subject's death, so I'm not exactly objective about this book. As memoirs go, however, I found this one well-written and really clever. There's a tendency for memoirs to present themselves so matter-of-factly that the reader can't help questioning the veracity of the stories they contain, but these authors announce up front that half of the book is made up (the greyed-out pages), and that makes the "true" bits e ...more
Pabel Lopez
I did not like this book. I must admit I am only a casual fan of Bruce Springsteen and his band so that may have something to do with my reaction to this book. In other biographies I have read the author gave some examples of how the subject had some shortcomings. This book had none of that. Halfway through the book I had to make sure I wasn't reading a book about a saint or something. I could see how the two writers wouldn't want to make Clemons look like a scummy dude or anything but I am a sc ...more
Matt Chic
Jan 09, 2012 Matt Chic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this the day after the world lost the Big Man, Clarence Clemons.

I'm a big Springsteen fan, so I don't know why I didn't read it sooner, but reading it when I did had a different impact on me than I think it would have had I read it before he died.

If you've seen the E Street Band in the last few years, you could tell Clarence was hurting. I mean they're all getting old, but y'know...

So it's not like he was complaining the whole time or whatever --if anything it was just the opposite-- but
Apr 01, 2013 Dale rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this book at a dollar store, and picked it up because it had been listed as source material for a recent Bruce Springsteen biography I read. I'm glad I didn't pay full price for it.

Make no mistake about it: this is a strange book. It's non sequential, which is odd enough for a biography, but it's also--candidly--not entirely factual. Mixed in with a few funny stories and glimpses of Clarence's life are a bunch of "legends" or tall tales that he has told over the years. While that might g
Jul 09, 2011 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I like some of their songs, I've never been a big fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. A friend of mine enjoyed this book and suggested it to me, and I confess that it is entertaining.

Told as a series of vignettes shared between Clarence Clemons and his friend Don Reo, it is alternately biography, half-truths and outright lies with a dash of hero worship on the part of Mr. Reo. Clarence Clemons is the rare musician that is touched by lightning and happens to meet the right pe
Thomas DeWolf
Jul 13, 2012 Thomas DeWolf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Loved, loved, LOVED every page of this book! Except for the last page; and the only thing I didn't like about the last page is that it was the last page. The book was over. I wanted more and more. Any Springsteen fan who has not read this book, well, you need to. Those of you who have never cared for the Boss, for Scooter and the Big Man, or have friends who are crazy about E Street and you just don't get it; this book will help.

Great stories throughout, and most of them are true; at least they
Nov 19, 2009 Joel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Big Man reads like sharing a barstool with Bruce Springsteen's sax man. Each episode exists independently, with no consistent timeline or narrative voice. Adding to the frustration, narration jumps between first and third person. Co-writer Don Reo frequently inserts himself into the story and comes off as a glad-handing, uber-fanboy.
This material would have worked better as a series of blog entries, or - better yet - as a podcast with Clemons personally intoning each chapter. It works OK as a bo
Mar 05, 2012 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is really awesome. Anyone who enjoys reading story's real and fake will enjoy this book. It shows the life of the big man outside of the stage. Big Man's unfortunate passing made me want to read it even more. Clarence Clemons was a big part of Springsteen's band. Yet this book talks a lot about his outside life. It begins with a story of his parents. They are at a club listening to a saxophone player play jazz music. Then they decide they would get their son, Clarence a saxophone for C ...more
Gary Anderson
Jan 02, 2010 Gary Anderson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Big Man captures the essence of Clarence Clemons and his relationship with Bruce Springsteen, the rest of the E Street Band, and his fans. Parts of this book are laugh-out-loud funny.

It definitely doesn't supply dirt about any of these people. In fact, it doesn't even necessarily tell the actual truth about them. It's really more interested in essence than truth.

Co-author Don Reo, a sitcom writer and producer, probably shows up in the book a little too often. At times it seems like a co-autobiog
Feb 04, 2014 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the next best thing to what every Clarence Clemons fan wanted: to hang out with him and absorb his aura. Clarence and his longtime friend Don Reo trade stories of dubious truth but huge entertainment value. It's a big-hearted portrait of their friendship and their mutual love for their lives. They are brilliant storytellers. Reading it now, after the Big Man has gone, gives it a bittersweet feel: every fan misses him, but we have to be glad he's been released from the pain he was in for ...more
Feb 12, 2013 Todd rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always enjoyed biographies of people from the entertainment business, and while I enjoyed this book it doesn't exactly come over as a true bio. Lots of stories, some I have the feeling are true, some of them seem like they are just stories. And even the authors admit that they took multiple stories and made them into one.
It was good to read about the relationship between The Big Man and The Boss. They had a connection that seemed to go past just the music, and I think the authors captured
Dec 28, 2016 Kenneth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An unusual autobiography.
If the Big Man was going to write a book, he was going to do it his way.
Written with an entertainment agent friend, Don Reo, the two of them alternate telling wild stories from the rock stars’ world. It was a wild ride, and Clarence Clemons was going for it all. Some of the stories are amusing, but on the pages that are grey in color, “Legends” are told that are part fact, part fiction- you guess which. I did not appreciate the frequent cursing in this book- so I will no
Janieh Hermann
Feb 19, 2010 Janieh Hermann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
As a long time fan of not just the Boss but all of the E Streeters this is a book that I could not resist -- and it did not disappoint. I loved how they interspersed "legends" and "tall tales" throughout the life story of The Big Man. The different perspective offered by Don Reo was also interesting. I always knew that Clarence had led an interesting life, but I had no idea how interesting until reading this book. I also love the insight that it gave me in to the early years of one of my all-tim ...more
Feb 11, 2010 Gharper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would have to say that this was probably one of my top favorite books of all time; however long this time period may be. "Big Man", the autobiography of Clarence Clemons, (co-written by Don Reo), presents itself strickly to a number of paragraphs that attempt to describe its thrilling, horrifying, and inspirational pages, sharing the stories and tall tales that make up the life of this sax player. I could NOT put it down, and would strongly suggest it to whoever enjoys a good book.
Bill Sleeman
The Big Man was a great book! Very fun stories and well structured – this could easily have been a story about Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons but instead focused squarely on the life and exploits of Clarence Clemons. What a character, many of the stories had be laughing out loud – not a book for those offended by strong language or political incorrectness but definitely a book for music fans, not just Bruce fans.
May 10, 2016 Toni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
SOOOOOOO AWESOME!!!!!! to everyone who loves Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band. read this book. You get so much insider knowledge and funny facts. In this book are so many funny stories that I actually couldnt stop laughing at some points and tried hard not to wake up my whole family. The writing styles of "The Big Man" and Don Reo are typical american and you will enjoy every word they wrote
Did you know Clarence Clemons has imaginary conversations with Norman Mailer? That he once played pool with Fidel Castro? that he sometimes calls Bruce "Scooter" (which I think is adorable)?

Yea, things like that were pretty much all the reason I needed to read this. It isn't terribly deep (except a couple of times when it is) but it is charming and feels very real, despite all the "tall tales" included.
Mar 04, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Clarence's stories are a hoot. Gave me expanded appreciation for what Clarence (and Bruce and the rest of the band) put into their music. I held my breath during Clarence's solos at the close of the 2009 tour in Buffalo, hoping that it wouldn't be the last time I heard that heaven-connecting sax. Now that I know more about his physical challenges, his friendships, and his spiritual practice before each show, I understand why his playing so easily touches my heart.
Jan 24, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished-2014
A wonderful mix of fact and fiction. I stopped reading this for a while when C died and finally finished it. The later stories are very poignant, full of the Big Man's realisation of mortality.

Quite simply, if the music moves you, you should read this book. It has a brilliantly blurred line between the truth of Clarence's life and the myth surrounding him.
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