WHY is this story here at NJ Discover? Because the song was born right here in New Jersey, USA. All New Jersey musicians. And the song was re-discovered right here in NJ.
A long time ago in another state, in another city (which has alternate side of the street parking), I was aimlessly flicking television channels with an antiquated remote when I caught the black and white beginning of a movie that I’d never seen, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It was early autumn. Within a few minutes, I was drawn into the mystique and charm of this movie; throw an angel into storyline and I’m hooked for the long haul. I loved the movie’s message; about friends, family and dreams. The movie became a Christmas classic but not for many years after it was made in 1946. It was actually released in the summer that year and bombed at the box office.
When I finished watching the movie, I wondered why this wasn’t a classic with its timeless message of Christmas spirit, incredible cast and storytelling. Over the next few years, Ronald Reagan became President and the movie began surfacing on television during the holiday season with uncanny frequency. I said to myself, “I knew it would find itself holiday time;” and did it ever. Back in the Garden State, in the early eighties, a few weeks before Christmas on a Saturday afternoon, I was flicking channels again with a more modern remote and stumbled upon “It’s A Wonderful Life” on six different channels at the same time, staggered so that you could see the ending if you were so moved; six times. “Atta boy Clarence,” Jimmy Stewart (George Bailey) says near the end; witness to the multi decade birth of a Christmas classic movie. Television stations today conspire to only do one showing per season; but it’s still a certifiable classic. Segue to the title of this article, ‘Eyewitness to a new classic Christmas song.’ By the way, I find it particularly haunting in my microcosmic synchronistic world that the angel in this movie is a Clarence, and I’m writing about Clarence(Clemons). Hmmm!!
I told the story of the movie because in our crazy mixed-up, digital, smart-phone, fast food world, we’re likely to be witnessing the birth of yet another classic; this time an incredible Christmas song with such a moving emotional voice, the late ‘Big Man,’ Clarence Clemons. If you want to get in the mood before reading on, here’s the You Tube link to ‘There’s Still Christmas.’ Go listen and come back here.
I love angels and synchronicity. Six weeks ago, I came to know Jim Nuzzo and Dennis Bourke who created this song with Clarence Clemons back in 1981. I’m a story teller so here goes.
Back in 1981, Stevie Betts (lyricist) and Dennis Bourke (melody) wrote this song, ‘There’s Still Christmas’ and teamed up with Jim Nuzzo (arranger, producer) and got manager Natty Bruer (assistant tour manager for Springsteen back then) to approach Clarence Clemons. They all met at Clarence’s Sea Bright, New Jersey home, had some wine and presented the words of the song to the ‘Big Man.’ Being on hiatus from touring with Springsteen, Clarence wanted to do it. He loved the message of the song; when things look down, there’s still Christmas; simple yet poignant. And Clarence’s rich baritone voice that is silenced now; propels this to classic status. At the first recording session in October 1981, Clarence arrived wearing a cowboy hat. The next day he was wearing a Santa Claus hat and red vest exposing a chubby belly. He had Christmas lights put on the music stand; he was so in the mood to do this song. They rehearsed the song at ‘Big Man’s West’ in Red Bank; Clarence’s club. Jim and Dennis both told me about getting chills being in the same room with him when he performed. “He was a gentle down to earth guy,” Jim said. To relax during the recording sessions, they played video games. To prepare for record company submission, Clarence recorded the other side on solo sax another Christmas classic “The Christmas Song.” The record company never picked up the song so it’s been sleeping all these years waiting for classic beams of particulate historic energy. Last year the song was released(thanks Terry Camp) but like the movie, so few of us knew it existed. I listened and was blown away; his voice and persona holds me in a suspended state; like I’ve known him all these years; like it’s a special legacy to all of us to have him back in our lives at Christmas this year.
But there’s more to the legacy of Clarence and this song. Jim Nuzzo and Dennis Bourke (A Viet Nam vet) have affiliated with this amazing charity ‘Give an Hour’ http://www.giveanhour.org/Home.aspx a non-profit organization providing free mental health services to US Military personnel and their families affected by current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All of which means as we move to make this wonderful song a Christmas mainstay and classic, proceeds from the sale of this song on iTunes, CD Baby will help our military. Imagine, after all these years that this song comes to us from Clarence at the holiday time of year; part of his enduring legacy.
Here’s some links to this wonderful life song/info:
A percentage of cd sales from “There’s Still Christmas” by the legendary Clarence Clemons will be donated to Give an Hour, a non-profit organization that provides free mental health services to military personnel, their loved ones and hometown communities affected by conflicts abroad.
Please open up your hearts, honor Clarence and support our veterans by purchasing your copy for this holiday season.
Available for purchase on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, and Backstreets.com http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/theres-still-christmas-single/id474038459?uo=4http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/clarenceclemons
You can also find ‘There’s Still Christmas’ on Facebook.
Bottom line. Please go listen and fall in love with the song. Purchase it. Sit by the fire place with a glass of wine or egg nog. Enjoy the Happy Holidays. Listen to his wondrous voice.
Thanks to Jim Nuzzo and Dennis Bourke for their passion and time.
By Calvin Schwartz
Also at: http://www.vichywater.net/blog/