Articles Comments

» 1980s, Pop » You’re a Friend of Mine – Clarence Clemons and Jackson Browne

You’re a Friend of Mine – Clarence Clemons and Jackson Browne

In 1986, Bruce Springsteen was the biggest (or one of the biggest) rock star in the world. Born in the USA had produced seven top-10 singles (a record that Springsteen shares with Michael Jackson’s Thriller record and Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation). People loved Springsteen and anyone associated with America’s hardest-working rocker.

That made it the perfect time for Springsteen’s long-time collaborator and saxophone player, Clarence Clemons, to release an album (Hero) and a single that captured and capitalized on the Springsteen zeitgeist.

The song was “You’re a Friend of Mine” written by Narada Michael Walden and Clemons didn’t just rely on his sax playing and singing voice to sell the song. Nope, he brilliantly pulled in Jackson Browne who was also riding high having placed three songs in the Billboard Top 40 in the past six years. And to add even more celebrity mojo to the mix, Clemons and Browne threw in Daryl Hannah to sing backup vocals (she was Jackson Browne’s girlfriend at the time). Yeah, the same Daryl Hannah who first became famous in the Ron Howard film, Splash in the early 1980s. Didn’t know she sang? Neither did we. But the video is proof.

It’s a “bromance” song. Because even though Hannah makes a guest appearance, this song is really about how Clemons and Browne like each other. A lot. Really a lot.

Click here to the read the lyrics of “You’re a Friend of Mine”

Listen to “You’re a Friend of Mine by Clarence Clemons

The song itself? A breezy little pop song that is easy on the ears and easy to forget. But in 1986, it was memorable enough to hit #18 on the Billboard Hot 100. Plus, VH1 named it #100 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s.

It’s one of the few one-hit wonders that features a saxophone player as the primary artist. For another example, listen to “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington Jr. featuring Bill Withers.

Written by

I'm an obsessive music collector, cataloger, commenter and trivia nut. Sometimes I'm even a listener. One-hit wonders have always been a guilty pleasure.

Filed under: 1980s, Pop · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to "You’re a Friend of Mine – Clarence Clemons and Jackson Browne"

  1. Walker says:

    I think Gladys Knight and the Pips did a remake of this. Or did their version come first?

  2. Michael Waterman says:


    You might be thinking of “That’s What Friends Are For” that featured Gladys Knight alongside Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder and Elton John in a song to benefit the American Foundation for Aids Research. That one reached #1 in 1986. The song won two Grammy Awards as well as becoming the most popular song of 1986. You could consider it a one-hit wonder since it was a one-off collaboration between Knight, Warwick, John and Wonder, but I don’t plan to write about it here.

    I haven’t ever heard a version of “You’re a Friend of Mine” by Gladys Knight, but they may have recorded the song or played it live. But Clemons made the original version famous.

  3. Walker says:

    You might be thinking of “That’s What Friends Are For” Absolutely not!
    I know that record. You can’t escape it in groceries and drugstores.
    Also know the Clarence Clemons song.
    Looked up Knight finally. She does have a song titled “A Friend of Mine. ”
    That could be it, but no link to play it.

  4. Michael Waterman says:


    I found the Gladys Knight song on Rhapsody. It’s definitely a different song. I laughed at your description of “That’s What Friends Are For” and not being able to escape in grocery and drugstores. So true. Once that harmonica solo on the introduction is in your head, it won’t leave for days!

  5. chilidog says:

    When I worked radio in Dubuque in the mid-’80’s, there was a Lincoln-Mercury commerical from the CBS Radio Radio (sic) network on which Gladys Knight sang “You’re A Friend Of Mine”. I still recall saying on the air how much I loved hearing Gladys sing that song.

  6. Michael Waterman says:

    I would be interested to hear that, especially if it’s the Clarence Clemons song.

    Here is “You’re a Friend of Mine” by Gladys Knight and The Pips:

    Are you sure it wasn’t that song on the Lincoln-Mercury ad? Regardless, thanks for commenting Chilidog.

Leave a Reply