The Austin Chronicle

Rock & Roll Books

Reviewed by Austin Powell, December 4, 2009, Music

Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales

by Clarence Clemons & Don Reo, Grand Central Publishing, 384 pp., $26.99

Bruce Springsteen's foreword pales in comparison to his ecstatic ringside introduction raving up "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" on the essential Live/1975-85 collection: "In this corner, king of the world, master of the universe, weighing in at 260 pounds, the Big Man, Clarence Clemons." Add size 17 shoes and barroom storyteller to the E Street Band saxophonist's credentials. As its title suggests, Big Man is equally divided between Real Life – short, autobiographical sketches of Born to Run sessions and other memorable behind-the-music moments – and Tall Tales – more entertaining asides, such as "The Legend of Key West, 1976," where Robert De Niro confides that he stole his infamous Taxi Driver bit ("Are you talking to me?") from a Springsteen show – both distinguished by a coloring of the pages. Clemons' prose mirrors his self-coined relation to a "Newfoundland with hip dysplasia": "black, friendly, lovable, and in constant pain," peppering his narratives with vulgarities the way his Boss does themes of darkness and hope. The substantial contributions from co-author and noted television writer Don Reo read like poorly written script, oftentimes re-creating Clemons' handed-down accounts with forced, awkward dialogue. Don't be surprised then when Big Man hits a theatre near you.

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