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Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales Paperback – November 22, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As the saxophonist for the E Street Band, the famed backup band for Bruce Springsteen, Clemons has lived a kind of pop music celebrity that's rare these days, a life spent rising and staying at the top of the album charts and performing before stadiums packed with tens of thousands of people. Along the way, he's mastered the art of telling yarns that are entertaining, whether plausible or dubious. It's a skill acquired during long hours waiting for gigs, traveling to gigs and recovering from gigs (Clemons now suffers from knee, hip and other joint ailments). His storytelling prowess is on display in this memoir, written with friend and producer Reo (My Wife and Kids; 'Til Death). The book is part episodic memoir (printed on white pages) and part bull session (legends printed on gray pages). The authors trade chapters about how the E Street Band got its name, how Spring-steen and Clemons met and why Big Man decided not to cut his hair, among other things. The intent is to give readers, especially fans, an idea of life behind the music by sharing the stories bandmates told each other. It's a novel approach to memoir that unfortunately skimps on serious insight and Springsteen's music and too often settles on nostalgia and celebrity name-dropping. Fans of Springsteen (who contributes a foreword to the book) will no doubt be more tolerant and eager to savor every page. (Oct. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Legends have a way of growing every time they're told. This time, the tales of rock and roll history are brought to life by a legend himself, Clarence Clemons. Big Man relives Clemons's story in a unique personal narrative that's bound in both history and folklore. This is an essential read for any music lover."
--President Bill Clinton

"Big Man takes you on an outrageous journey with one of the most charismatic, gracious, kind and talented men of our time. This peek into the world of Clarence is full of fun and laughter, which is exactly what this guy is all about. He's a genuine soul worth his weight in gold. That's why he's been an inspiration to me for years and years, and his incredible music brings great joy to my heart. His role in the E Street Band helped place him and the band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...right where he belongs."
--Pat Riley, NBA Hall Of Fame coach

"Big Man is one of the greatest books about a big black man ever written. If you want to get really close to a big black man without getting punched in the face, this book's for you!"
--Chris Rock

"The feeling I get watching Clarence walk to center stage to play his sax must be similar to the feeling a Yankee fan had watching Babe Ruth walk to home plate: you're sure a big man is about to do something that's gonna make you cheer louder than you ever have before. This great book makes that feeling even stronger. Now excuse me while I drive my sleek machine over the Jersey state line."
--Artie Lange, New Jersey native, E-Street fanatic, and New York Times bestselling author of Too Fat To Fish

"Big Man is too funny, soulful, outrageous and wise to have been written by two people. I suspect Don Reo is an invented character. A mystical book, an oddly beautiful book, a wonderful book."
--Kinky Friedman

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (November 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446546259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446546256
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #907,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Springsteen junkie (more than 100 shows under my belt starting with No Nukes in 1979) I buy lots of these books. Most I scan through and never get to reading all the way through. Even as one who would find what Springsteen eats for breakfast entertaining, I get bored. Not the case with Big Man! I read it in one day. It is truly enjoyable, funny and well written. Clarence's tales are so convincing, I found myself googling Englebert Humperdinck to see if he was still alive! As a black man, that on a given night may perform in front of 50,000 white people and on a good night maybe a dozen black people, he did not set out to prove anything. (Damon Wayons, a friend of Don Reo's comments at his first show that Bruce must be a Sopranos fan since he just spotted Stevie Van Zandt backstage!) Clarence is immensely talented, incredibly likable and really funny. And, he gets 50,000 white people pay money to see him! His stories come off as honest and straight forward. Clarence doesn't offer inside gossip on Bruce and the other band members; he doesn't have to; his stories are more than enough entertainment. There are really great photos that you don't want to miss, so don't opt for the Kindle version. As larger than life as Springsteen is, The Big Man never plays second fiddle. He doesn't do this with ego, but with talent, presence, likeability and a smile that can light up a stadium.

Don Reo's additions are really amusing. He is obviously a very successful man in his on right, and surely has met and hung out with many a celebrity, but offers his observations from a very humble perspective. He gets as excited by the private planes with the band, the backstage access, the inside scoop as any die hard fan would. In many cases he is the fly on the wall that we would all like to be.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've always been a big fan of Clarence, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Come on everyone who's buying the book are. I was excited to read Clarence's book. There is absolutely no question in reading this book that The Big Man is a very intelligent and witty guy. The book is really three books in one. The first book is written by Clarence about Clarence, his life and experiences. The second book is written by Clarence and is partially true and partially fiction. The third is written by the co-author, Clarence's good friend (groupie?) Don Rio. All three books are mixed together. This seems to work for a while and then it stops working quite abruptly.
Here are the problems as I see them: Problem number one is the part of the book that is written by the co-author. I didn't know who Don Rio was, but I sure do now. The thing is, this is a book about Clarence Clemons. Let Mr. Reo write his own book! It's not that I don't care about Mr. Reo, just not in this book. He also goes on and on about how wonderful Clarence is, oh yes, on and on. We already knew this or we probably wouldn't be reading the book. Mind you this is a full third of the book! I becomes quite painful and not just a little annoying. If you do purchase the book, a word of advise, skip the chapters that start with, "Don." The second problem is the "Tall Tales." They are amusing at first and then the name dropping really gets on your nerves and it's not just people in the music business, really odd references and they seem to get longer and longer and your mind starts to wander and zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The biggest problem with the book is the part that Clarence wrote about his experiences. It's too short. We don't really learn much about him at all. He tells us very little about his childhood.
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Very enjoyable, well written, fresh, laugh out funny. I was hoping it would not be a typical tell all. Having read many tell all books they are stupid and boring. I don't care to know how many chicks the guy screwed our how much he drank or snorted. Big deal, I get it man. Enough already. This is different. It cleverly weaves strories with famous people in and of Big Man's life. Some are true some are not. He tells you that before you read the story. His point being, having already met (or maybe not) the person,-example: Robert DeNiro,Norman Mailer,Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, he paints a picture of what they would say and act in a given situation.It's called storytelling.That's what Bruce Springsteen is, a storyteller. Many have told me they don't "get" Bruce. I tell them he tells stories thats it. Don't think to hard. The stories of he and the E Street Band are wonderful, funny, poignant and refreshing. Don Reo gives great insight as an outsider privileged to "tag along". Buy this book, try not to read it all in one sitting. You will feel empty when it's over.
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Martin and Lewis? Defunct. Lennon and McCartney? Didn't happen. Cruise and Kidman? Nope.

It's tough for a couple to stay together. But some have done it. Mick Jaggar and Keith Richards, of course. And then there Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons. Or, if you prefer, and you probably do, the Boss and the Big Man.

Clemons wrote a book about his life appropriately called "Big Man," and it's unique as memoirs go. The literary effort is a bit all over the place, but still manages to be entertaining.

When Springsteen made it big in music around 1977, Clemons quickly became something of a folk hero in the band. He was indeed a big man, having tried to play some semi-pro football in his younger days. His saxophone was often featured in Springsteen's work, helping to give the music a somewhat distinctive sound. His personality also came through nicely in concert, as "The Big Man" became something of an alter ego during shows.

The book is co-written by Don Reo, a man who has done plenty of work in television (writing, producing, etc.) and is a good friend of Clemons. The two trade off in writing anecdotes here. Clemons does most of the writing, and Reo's sections are mostly -- but not exclusively -- about Clemons and the times they had together. There are dozens of chapters here, and they are in no particular order. For those of you who like your stories told in a linear manner, this may not work too well. But overall, it comes off like listening in on an interesting conversation with two old friends -- bouncing from here to there.

Supposedly members of the E Street Band have signed some confidentiality agreements, but Clemons is relatively open when it comes to his own life.
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