07 January 2008

'Got Me On My Knees.'

John Powell considers the autobiography of god - I mean, Eric Clapton:

Clapton’s continuing relevance is rooted in his conviction that music is a healer, an agent of change that ought not to be compromised for the sake of celebrity. When he filled stadiums with Cream, Blind Faith, or Derek and the Dominos during the late sixties and early seventies, his blues reflected pain and a quest that seemed to have no end. When he began to trade in ballads and pop songs, old fans were perplexed. At the time they couldn’t imagine what polished productions like “Running on Faith” and “Change the World” had to do with the wailing twelve-bar blues that had made him famous. But the circumstances of his life were changing. The key for Clapton, in both blues and ballads, was the essential truth of the music, expressing in song what could not be uttered in ordinary language. In 1970, when he emptied his soul to ask, “Have you ever loved a woman, so much you tremble in pain?” there was no doubt that he did—it was Patti Harrison. Twenty years later, when he pathetically whispered to Conor, “Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven?” it was hard to deny even a blues god the right to give rein to a more gentle hope and tune.

Clapton was always susceptible to truth. From the time he was a boy, he knew when he had done wrong and never excused his sins as the rites of a new moral code. When Delaney Bramlett confronted Clapton on acid, and warned him that “God has given you this gift, and if you don’t use it he will take it away,” it stunned him because he knew it was true. He knew that loving Patti Harrison was wrong, which explains the agony he felt and the circumspection he practiced. After failing so often to kick his addictions, he finally turned to God for help and got it, and now kneels to pray every morning and evening. “In some way, in some form, my God was always there, but now I have learned to talk to him.”

This autobiography is successful in two ways that don’t always go hand in hand. First, it has been a surprising commercial success, selling more than half a million copies in less than two months. In a field where the written word has seldom made inroads, these figures reveal an interest in Clapton that confirms his status in the high pantheon of popular culture. Second, and more significantly, it succeeds as a satisfying explanation of a complex life. All secrets are not revealed, but he has chosen, generally, to dwell on the weightier matters of his life. Although he recognizes music as an elemental force of nature, which “needs no help, and suffers no hindrance,” he discounts the value of his own musical gift. Music, for Clapton, has not been the end but rather the means for getting beyond his own selfishness and into a higher realm of existence where love, family, and integrity trumped sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Admitting this is dangerous territory for a rock icon. When Clapton finally dismissed his ghostwriter, he became the foreman in dismantling his own mythic image. He always was susceptible to the truth.

Here's the whole thing.


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