I recently finished my second read of guitarist Eric Clapton’s autobiography, the aptly titled “Clapton,” which details in depth the brilliant artist’s personal and musical life, from his birth in the Village of Ripley (approximately 25 miles from London) to his most recent, and possibly last, world tour in 2006 and 2007. And I must say, it’s as interesting and honest an account of one’s life I’ve ever read over the course of more than 30 years of musical and literary curiosity on my part.
To be honest, you don’t read this book as much as you experience it, particularly if you’re a fan of the man, or of guitar, or of music in general. His writing skills are top-notch, for one thing (he relates at one point his love of language), yet it’s the brutally truthful way he goes about telling his story that really hits a nerve.
And there are parts of the book that are brutal; Clapton pulls no punches here.
T.S. Eliot once said that “the journey not the arrival matters,” yet by the end of “Clapton,” one realizes that his journey – one that could (and probably should) have resulted in his death any number of times – pales in comparison with where he finally arrives. Now 67 years old, he has a wife and three beautiful little girls. And he’s at peace. In the book’s epilogue (it was released in 2007), Clapton states that “the last ten years have been the best of my life ... I have a loving family at my side, a past I am no longer ashamed of, and a future that promises to be full of love and laughter.”
Amen to that.
As a musician and blues guitarist, I’ve always felt an indescribable connection with those musicians I’ve found most influential since I first picked up the instrument in the summer of 1991, Clapton included. Throughout the majority of my high school years, I absolutely refused to listen to any other form of music. If it wasn’t blues (B.B., Freddie or Albert King, Albert Collins, Robert Johnson and many more) or blues-rock (Jimi Hendrix, the aforementioned Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower, Gary Moore ... the list goes on), I didn’t have time for it. Many, I would imagine, considered me somewhat of a music snob (which I was), although – in my defense – I was also completely dedicated to the guitar and to the music I loved, and still love today.
It’s a medium that’s hard to define, music, when it’s the real thing. As a musician, my musical and personal journey through life are hopelessly entwined; there’s really no separation. And while I’ve never suffered as Clapton has (we all have our own path to follow, of course) I’ve certainly taken, and dealt, my fair share of bumps and bruises along the way.
Clapton finishes his memoir with what I consider one of the finest conclusions ever written from an autobiographical standpoint, in which he states, “The music scene as I look at it today is little different from when I was growing up. The percentages are roughly the same – 95 percent rubbish, 5 percent pure. However, the systems of marketing and distribution are in the middle of a huge shift, and by the end of this decade I think it’s unlikely that any of the existing record companies will still be in business. With the greatest respect to all involved, that would be no great loss. Music will always find its way to us, with or without business, politics, religion, or any other (expletive) attached. Music survives everything, and like God, it is always present. It needs no help, and suffers no hindrance. It has always found me, and with God’s blessing and permission, it always will.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself, Mr. Clapton.
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