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Clapton: The Autobiography Paperback – May 27, 2008
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“Like the bluesmen who inspired him, Clapton has his share of scars... his compelling memoir is... a soulful performance.”
“An absorbing tale of artistry, decadence, and redemption.”
—Los Angeles Times
“One of the very best rock autobiographies ever.”
“A glorious rock history.”
—New York Post
“This book does what many rock historians couldn’t: It debunks the legend... puts a lie to the glamour of what it means to be a rock star.”
—Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune
“Strong stuff. Clapton reveals its author’s journey to self-acceptance and manhood. Anyone who cares about the man and his music will want to take the trip with him.”
—Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone
“Clapton is honest... even searing and often witty, with a hard-won survivor’s humor... an honorable badge of a book.”
—Stephen King, New York Times Book Review
“An even, unblinking sensibility defines the author’s voice.”
—New York Times
“An unsparing self-portrait.”
About the Author
ERIC CLAPTON is married to Melia McEnery and is the father of four daughters. He lives outside London.
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Perhaps the defining moment in Clapton’s life is his much-discussed romance with George Harrison’s wife Patti Boyd, the inspiration for the Layla album and other songs in Clapton’s body of work. That particular episode proves not to be quite as romantic as the music that was composed around it. Here Clapton admits that as soon as he won Boyd’s love he began cheating on her. In fact, Clapton treats a lot of women like dirt in this book, and delves pretty deeply into the psychological hows and whys of it all. To his credit, however, unlike Pete Townshend in his autobiography Who I Am, Clapton doesn’t ask you to forgive him, beg you to like him, or expect you to admire his exploits. He simply relates everything in a matter-of-fact way, as if to say these are some bad things I’ve done, and there’s nothing I can do about them now.
Clapton is equally candid about his substance abuse, and his story of recovery is inspiring. One can’t help but admire the way he eventually turned his life around. Yet the book is frustrating because for most of its length he is still very much an emotional child. He doesn’t really get his act together until his mid-50s, when he marries a woman 30 years his junior. At that point you’re happy for him, but the book also starts to get boring as Clapton becomes your grandpa, talking about “computer culture” (owning a laptop), shopping for shoes in Japan, and the necessity of taking a nap every afternoon.
As revealing and cathartic as all the talk about his drug use and alcoholism may be, the reader is left wishing Clapton had devoted more ink to his music. He covers Blind Faith, Cream, and Derek and the Dominos pretty well, but glosses over much of his solo career. He left the Yardbirds because their music was too poppy and not true to the blues, but he doesn’t feel the need to justify his later forays into easy listening, smooth jazz, and Luther Vandross-style R&B. Some of his greatest albums, like Slowhand, he dismisses as sloppy, drunken playing. His own personal favorite is Pilgrim, an album which critics frequently cite as one of his all-time worst.
A really good rock and roll biography will make me want to go back and dig out that artist’s old albums, thereby reliving some of his or her glory days. This book didn’t do that for me. As much as I love his guitar playing, I’d have to say my respect for the man diminished a bit after reading his life story. Not only were some of his moral choices off-putting, but he just doesn’t come across as intelligent as you might expect a virtuoso musician to be. I’m not here to criticize Clapton’s life, however, but rather to review his book. There’s no denying that Clapton the book is well written and covers a lot of what you’d want to know about the man. It isn’t always fun or exciting, but it’s consistently informative, surprisingly candid, and provides a great deal of insight into the man behind the music.
This book should be on a list for anyone who faces addiction or dependency. The people who love the user give up living for themselves and become the caregivers. Clapton was as honest as he could be about his emotional pain and downward spiral, giving others a path to sobriety.
Getting clean is easy but staying sober is a lifelong commitment and requires work.
Thank you Eric for keeping a journal and telling a story that is filled with the music of life. You are correct when you say spiritual belief and music will always be heard.