Eric Clapton
Broadway Books, 2007

UnknownIt was the music. Music is what inspired, sustained, and provided the atmosphere that made him, broke him and made him again. Clapton had an early sense of himself as an unusual outsider being brought up by his grandparents who acted as his natural parents while his mother disappeared to raise another family without the stigma of an illegitimate boy. Like many of us, his emotional-life trajectory seems to have been born in these early years.

When he discovered the comfort and power of music as a boy he never let it go and it became his first of many obsessions. For if there is one thing Clapton appears to to be, it is obsessive. He was obsessive with learning the guitar and playing in bands that suited him, obsessive in his choices of women and how he pursued them, obsessive with heroin, alcohol, love of his home Hurtwood Estate, designer clothes, fast cars, journal writing, effusively recalling every musician he ever met and played with, and finally with turning his life around to be an involved philanthropist, recovered alcoholic, and devoted family man.

Wow, what a life. The physical constitution of people like Clapton who can live as crazy fast and bad as they do, leave me in awe. After the amount of drugs his body endured and the ocean full of booze he flushed through his system, I will forever note Eric Clapton as an example of the power of human beings to endure.

At the end of it he ambles into his sixties, missing only a step or two to deafness. He is lucid and magazine-writing honest though the written word renders even his son’s tragic death in a few straightforward paragraphs. Readers who want the guts of Clapton’s emotions are more likely to find it in his music. The last two chapters of the book are evidence that it is much more interesting to read about people’s problems than the boring, happy life he writes about in the end.

Clapton appears to be enough of a control freak to not have the usual ghost writer for his biography which would add this autobiography to his list of obsessions. But there is credit to be given. His recitation is clear, easy to read, and surely an excellent reference for music fans. Both his emotions and sentences of self-assessment were stiff. He wrote of his grandfather, “In my arrogance, I believed I had somehow contributed to his decline by having bought him a house and giving him enough money to take early retirement.” The paragraph ends with, “perhaps I wasn’t responsible for everything that happened in the world.” There is humor, yes, and good self-assessment, but I also hear the language of his very good therapist. Thank God for good therapists. They send people on their way with trite, comforting phrases.

Clapton did what he set out to do. After considering the lives of Charlie Parker, Ray Charles, and Robert Johnson, he deliberately kept walking into his own dark times with the purpose of creating music and, “I also wanted to prove that I could do it and come out the other side alive.”

My lingering question is, “But what about the guy driving the laundry van he broadsided at ninety miles an hour?” Did he come out alive? Only Clapton’s injuries were listed.

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13 Responses to Clapton

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    I wasn’t aware he had an autobiography out. That was such a horrible thing with his son. I think he was only seven at the time. What a horrible accident. 😦

  2. I still have a couple of Clapton’s CDs. The one he wrote after his son’s death always tears me up. Wonderful review, Rebecca. Here is an obsessive man who came out on the other side. I see what you mean about the other vehicle. I tried Googling. Nothing.

  3. You know, I thought it could be requirements of results of a trial or respect for the other person. Just never know. Being in Clapton’s kind of spotlight couldn’t be easy.

  4. Many years ago, when I was much younger in my early twenties and what would be considered hot today, I saw Clapton. My brother surprised me with tickets for my birthday and we got to the venue early. A sound guy on stage noticed me and I ended up speaking with him for awhile before the show. The next night, my brother and I got to see the show again. This time, back stage. What a treat

  5. katecrimmins says:

    Most extraordinary musicians were obsessive and single-focused. Perhaps music is a good place to hide the pain.

  6. I’ve always enjoyed EC’s music and still do. I played his first sol album a couple times, just last weekend, I had no idea he published an book, but am pleased you read it for us. Too much of the book would likely change his music for me. As you say, ” Readers who want the guts of Clapton’s emotions are more likely to find it in his music.”

  7. Yes, and that’s the best place for it–for him as well as for us. I think we get wired somehow with the music of our coming of age years and we dance a bit to it the rest of our lives.

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