Now out in paperback, the story of Eric Clapton’s life as written and told by himself is not necessarily a happy one, but it is one that is true to his life, as he recounts the moments when he wrote and recorded some of the world’s favorite songs. He tells of the times he wrote and recorded the great songs like “Layla,” “Wonderful Tonight,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” and many more, as well as discussing his obsession with Pattie Boyd and the effect it had on his friendship with George Harrison.
Eric Clapton, like many British musicians, began life in a poor family with very little, the son of a builder. Discovering the great music of the 1950s, he made it his goal at a young age to become a great guitarist. Clapton’s career began slow, with his lack of money; his first guitars just weren’t that good and hindered his creativity, as well as his ability to teach himself to play. Nevertheless, he began his playing in a time that was bursting with creative music talent, giving him many avenues to practice and improve. From the beginning, Clapton was both a perfectionist with his music, and somewhat stuck up and arrogant about the sound he wanted. He saw the Beatles as too commercial, looking for a purer and more complex sound. This is why he spent little time with bands, going from one to the next like The Yardbirds, Cream, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and Blind Faith. And yet with each band he improved and became more popular in the eyes of the fans, developing the nickname “Slowhand” as well as the chant, “Clapton is God!”
At the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 70’s, Clapton was at a highpoint in his career, wealthy for the first time, and because of the period, took very heavily to drugs, alcohol, and smoking, and was soon a heroin addict. While Clapton never really openly discusses why he became an addict for so many vices, he is upfront in revealing the disappointment his father always had for him in pursuing a career in music, as well as an awkward first sexual experience that led to many problems in his life. In 1970, Jimmy Hendrix, a good friend and revered as a hero by Clapton, died from unexplained circumstances, but was known to be a very heavy drug and alcohol user. The parallels were obvious to Clapton, but instead of swearing off everything, he went the other way and spent years depressed, constantly drinking and taking heroin.
Through the 1970s and early 80’s this addiction sadly continued with Clapton, even though some of his best music was written and recorded during this period. Clapton is honest in saying that he cannot remember as much as he would’ve liked to of his life. Going through serious rehab, he eventually stopped the drug abuse, but simply switched to alcohol and smoking. The 1980s were a time in which Clapton spent most of the day drunk, and yet still managed to transcend the world of music in his guitar playing and writing. It was not until the 1990s that he finally stopped drinking completely, as well as eventually ending his smoking habit.
It wasn’t until the late 90’s that Clapton found his current wife and admits that it has only been in the last ten or so years of his life that he has been truly happy. This is visible in his music, with the album Pilgrim on through to the present; it is a more mature and happier sound, with less anguish, as if Clapton really is enjoying what he is doing in his life for the first time.
Clapton: the Autobiography is the life of Eric Clapton through his memories and thoughts. It is a life of sadness, depression, heartache, alcohol and drug abuse. In some ways it tarnishes the joy and happiness fans find in his music, when he cannot even recall recording a favorite song. Nevertheless there is a silver lining and a happy ending that makes the reader realize that in the later years of his life, Eric Clapton is finally at peace with his past and enjoying the great music he continues to make.
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Originally written on July 26th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.