Review: Clapton: The Autobiography By Eric Clapton

I’ll probably fling myself into the outer darkness with many of my Sixties and Seventies compatriots when I put into print that I never was a big Eric Clapton fan. I liked Cream and other bands of their ilk, but they never really impressed me much until 2009 when I began researching Beyond The Bridge. I’ve never followed the slogan, “Clapton is God.” I’ve always believed Rory Gallagher to be the best electric blues guitarist. I admired Clapton’s style, though, and in the early Eighties, with his live concert LP, Another Ticket, I began to warm up to him...

If you go into this book wanting to get the dirt on Clapton’s life, including what it was like to be upstaged in 1966 by then unknown Jimi Hendrix or how he “stole” Pattie Boyd from George Harrison, you’ll probably be disappointed. He discusses these events, but not as a biographer would. Instead, Clapton makes a point to lay both the praise and the blame for his deeds and misdeeds squarely at his own feet, not an easy thing for a recovering addict or a major celebrity to do.

This book is more a purging of Clapton’s personal demons than it is an exposé like Boyd’s Wonderful Tonight, and for that I’m glad. It is no small feat to confess your sins before the world without coming off as either pathetic or self-flagellating, or both. Clapton tells his story honestly, revealing a great deal of grace—even humility—which couldn’t have been easy considering his stature and personality. Clapton dedicates most of his book to portraying himself as a self-absorbed, over-indulgent misogynist. He redeems himself, however, in the final chapters. He is able to put the tragic death of his son into perspective. He overcomes addiction to drugs and alcohol. He takes personal accountability seriously. He finds the love of a good woman and begins a new family. He discovers fly fishing. He founds the Crossroads Center in Antigua, which assists families dealing with substance addiction. He admits that he has a long way to go.

Not only did I learn all I need to know from the man himself, I came to respect Eric Clapton for more than the great musician he is; I closed his book filled with deep respect and great compassion for him as a human being.

The book is well and candidly written. Clapton faces himself and all of his inner demons with courage as he pins himself and his life under that penetrating gaze of his. Throughout the book he is a gentleman; while he treats himself and his past actions with his relatively newfound, unflinching standards, he handles the people in his past with dignity and forgiveness. I sense that he has forgiven himself as well.

What impressed me about this book is that Clapton finally “got it” at all. He’s been clean for over 20 years and he has made it through and is alive to tell about it. This alone makes it more valuable a read than just another self- indulgent rock star autobiography.