Clapton: The Autobiography
A Book by Eric Clapton
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2008, Volume 15, #8
Written by John Metzger
Mon August 18, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
It truly is amazing to consider how much wonderful music Eric Clapton was able to make in the early-to-middle stages of his career, especially given how many issues also were weighing quite heavily upon his mind. He tried to numb them with heroin as well as to drown them in alcohol, and until recently, his relationships with women were fatally flawed. Yet, his artistic pursuits still managed to spring forth from some place deep inside his damaged soul.
Musicians, however, are not overly inclined to discuss the specifics about how the creative process functions. Clapton, not surprisingly, offers less insight into his albums and his songs than many fans likely had hoped he would in his book Clapton: The Autobiography. Even without his written words, it already was apparent that Back Home was meant to be a statement about the joy he found within the loving embrace of his wife and kids. Likewise, it’s doubtful that anyone was unaware that Layla, Wonderful Tonight, and She’s Waiting reflected the ups and downs of his relationship with Pattie Boyd. In effect, recording studios, jam sessions, and concert tours serve not as the focus, but rather as the backdrop for the story of his life. The tome’s real emphasis, then, is Clapton’s long and sometimes painful journey of self-discovery and spiritual healing.
Over the past decade, Clapton has been pouring over the details of his life. He re-formed Cream and reunited with Steve Winwood. He also has honored the influence that Robert Johnson and J.J. Cale had upon his career. Such reflection is natural, of course, but Clapton’s pensiveness was born from his need to comprehend his predilection for drugs, alcohol, and bad relationships. Consequently, there is no doubt that Clapton: The Autobiography is an extension of the guitarist’s therapy sessions. Over the course of the book, Clapton candidly examines the flaws in his character, makes amends to many of those whom he hurt, and discovers the path to his own happiness.
With the help of a journal that he fortunately kept, Clapton revisits each stage of his life, documenting the details of his relationships, and the moods and feelings that surrounded them. The insights into his childhood are particularly astute, and they set the stage for the final act of Clapton: The Autobiography. There is a period of time, stretching from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, when Clapton’s story is clouded in the gauzy haze of his addictions. This likely is an unintended result of his need to rely upon notes rather than memory to convey his inner monologue.
Although it is difficult, at times, to wade through the dryness of Clapton: The Autobiography, Clapton’s writing style proves to be an effective plot device. When he is left to identify the body of his son Conor, who died after falling from the window of his ex-girlfriend’s condo in New York City, his vision suddenly snaps back into focus. He finds the clarity and meaning that were missing, and he truly begins to accept himself and comprehend the reasons why he needed to rebuild his life and embrace his sobriety.
Some fans might be dissuaded by the fact that Clapton: The Autobiography skirts around the issue of having an actual dialogue about the music. Some folks also might not wish to know the nitty-gritty details of how Clapton managed to overcome his substance abuse problems. Rarely, however, is a superstar as brutally honest about his life as Clapton is his book. In fact, if it is approached strictly from a humanistic perspective, Clapton: The Autobiography tells a rather compelling story about the reasons that people behave the way they do. ½
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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