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Bookends: The Confessions of Slowhand Clapton February 3, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: The Confessions of Slowhand Clapton

By Dan Davidson

December 7, 2011 – 816 words –      Star, December 9/11

Clapton – the Autobiography

By Eric Clapton

Broadway Books

343 pages


You wouldn’t come away from Eric Clapton’s autobiography with any sense that you would recommend the man’s life as a role model for anyone to follow. Indeed, a good deal of his life reads like the standard rock and roll biography of that period, where sex, drugs and booze went with the music like peanut butter goes with jam.

Up to his crisis point in 1982, this is the life story of a man who was born under a bad sign (being illegitimate at a time when that mattered), grew up without knowing much about his birth parents, and was focussed in only one area of his life. That area was music and in some ways it was both his salvation and his curse.

Clapton, who was hailed as one of the guitar gods of the sixties and seventies, is surprisingly humble about his craft. The heroes of his youth remained his heroes long after he was better known and richer than they were. For every anecdote that tells the reader a (surprisingly little) bit about how he came to chose a particular sound for a particular song, there are probably three or four stories in which he rhapsodizes about the other guitarists of his era and the people he has worked with during his long career.

A good deal of the book is a chronicle of failed relationships and struggles with a variety of addictions. Eric began with alcohol, but got really serious when it came to cocaine and finally, heroin. When he did manage to kick smack he turned to alcohol. It took intensive sessions of rehab to get him out of that cycle, although the real key seems to have been his discovery of a vaguely described religious faith, an epiphany which led to his new found sobriety and allowed him to stay with it even during his depression over the tragic death of his son, Connor.

Relationships were a mess with Eric, and generally seemed to be a contributing factor to the drug abuse. His famously long relationship with George Harrison’s first wife, Pattie, was an obsession that did not seem to do either of them any good. Connor was the result of short-term affair that did not lead to marriage. He fathered another daughter out of wedlock but, unlike his own Canadian father, did take responsibility for her and seems to have been a part of her life.

As Clapton tells it (assisted by ghostwriter Christopher Simon Sykes), you are left with the impression that his music was the one thing that he tried very hard to be moral about, and yet he wished deep down that he could be a better man than he was. Even in music it was hard. He resisted being the front man for a long time, deliberately burying himself on the sidelines in more than one band while others were clamoring for him to take center stage. It was a long time after Cream, after Blind Faith, and after Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, that he became comfortable with being a leader.

Anyone who has followed his career knows the range of his sound. Solo Clapton can be soft and acoustic, can have thinner, quieter sound than those AM radio classics from his Cream days, can even be as jazzy as a tune called “Reptile”. I particularly enjoy his work on “One More Car, One More Rider” the 2001 live tour package, in which he showcases material from his entire body of work up to then. It shows him using all those chops to great effect.

Not surprisingly, Clapton’s sobriety expressed itself it a desire to help others break the chains that had hobbled him so much of his life. His Crossroads Centre, based on Antigua, has given him a third focus for his life.

While you never know quite what to think of celebrity marriages, Clapton’s final union with Melia, along with the births of their children, seems to have given him the stability he was really looking to find all his life. It’s a shame that he was 54 before he began to be happy.

Clapton recognizes that he was a walking disaster during much of his life, except when it came to his music. When he did sit down to self-diagnosis he writes “I found a pattern in my behavior that had been repeating itself for years, decades even. Bad choices were my specialty, and if something honest and decent came along, I would shun it or run the other way.”

It was pleasant to read that he managed to break out of that cycle and, at least as far as 2007 when this book was published, build a successful, happy life for himself and his family.




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