Eric Clapton takes no shortcuts in his debunking of any possible popular myth that he was in any way special or of good character. His deftness on the guitar came from countless hours of practice and his talent was revered by many involved in the music business. Fans such as myself considered Clapton a better man than he was simply based on the quality of the music he produced and the rock god he portrayed so elegantly on the stage. In page after page Clapton proves how despicable he truly was while in the throes of decades of drug and alcohol addiction. Several hard years laboring to acquire a quality sobriety insisted Clapton make an honest assessment of himself and to make appropriate amends. It helps the reader of this autobiography to be himself a recovering drug addict or alcoholic to fully appreciate the brutal and unrelenting exposure of the truth behind the life of Eric Clapton, and the countless and perhaps tiresome confessions he employs in this revealing book. I would imagine it might be too much for those who have no understanding of addiction and recovery, and thus perhaps it becomes a negative reading experience. For me, as disturbing as it is to read my guitar hero confess his often deplorable sins, it is also an instructive and mesmerizing read, as well as joyful to engage in this experience.
Old bandmate Carl Radle, one of rock’s greatest base payers of all time, was another struggling addict who died through substance abuse. Clapton still feels responsible for Radle’s death. It was Carl Radle who first helped Eric Clapton when he needed it most, and when Radle needed someone to lean on Clapton was not available. Same thing happened to me, and you never recover from this guilt. I was early into my own recovery when my cousin John called long distance from Michigan for help. He asked to come to Louisville and learn firsthand how I was staying sober. I was barely hanging on, and particularly selfish to the degree I believed would insure my own survival. It was, for me at least, every man for himself. Soon after that call for help my thirty-two year old lifetime friend died in a tragic auto accident due to his purported inebriation as he fell into a relapsed use of alcohol and cocaine.
Clapton’s tale is quite ugly. It seems as if he felt he had to confess every wrong he ever committed. His list of sins is unimaginable. All the adulteries reported and the mean and awful pranks he played on loved ones portrays him as a very lost soul with an extremely flawed character. The book for me was often painful to read. But he was not bragging about his numerous dalliances as others are wont to do. Clapton judiciously proves again and again how human he is, but he never asks for our forgiveness. He comes clean for himself, knowing he can never make up for what he has missed or the harm he has caused others. In light of the many wasted days and nights in the throes of his active addiction and initial fitful recovery, Clapton still managed to produce some of the greatest music rock and blues aficionados have ever heard. And for this we should be grateful.
In Clapton’s later years he has obviously become extremely appreciative of his friends and family. Perhaps misconstrued as being a bit sentimental at times, he refrains from becoming sanctimonious. Expressed and ebullient gratitude is often too much to bear for the more somber ones among us. But addicts who have regained a strong foothold in life seem to be overwhelmingly relieved and satisfied that their misery is behind them. And the wake never ends.