Features

Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am?

by Pete Crigler

clarenceclemons_whodoithink_350A philosophical look at the E Street Band sax man’s life, the documentary Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am? takes on a mortal tone when the Big Man is talking about himself and how others look at him. He’s basically trying to prove that he’s more than Bruce Springsteen’s sidekick and one of the most dynamic sax players that ever lived. Production on this film started before Clemons’ unfortunate passing, and while the black and white remembrances are a nice touch, it’s best to hear about the man from the man himself.

It’s clear that the original intent of the film was for Clarence to basically talk about himself and his journey. Death changed that narrative and the resulting film now takes a more straightforward approach to his life. A biographical overview interspersed with decent enough Springsteen live footage makes up for what Clarence wasn’t able to see to completion. One really gets to see how close Clarence and Bruce are and it’s rare to see such a true friendship on a rock stage these days.

One of the things that hampers films like this is the actual music. Springsteen’s material is expensive to license, but without it you don’t have much of a film—it’s just people talking and the consistent hope that you’ll hear more than just a small snippet of a Springsteen classic, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen. Still, it’s a bit of a thrill to see people like Bill Clinton talking about how great Clarence was, so that’s a treat for nerds like me.

Partway through the film takes a detour into a travelogue as Clarence travels to China, seemingly in search of himself. It’s a bittersweet experience as we watch him becoming a fuller person, knowing that he isn’t still here to talk about how he’s living in the now. Knowing that definitely affects the mood of the film, though it also shows a full representation of just how strong, unique and important Clarence Clemons really was.

Ultimately, this documentary is mostly for Springsteen fanatics, though it is revealing to see more of the personal aspects of a genuinely interesting musician like Clarence Clemons.



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