Review: Clapton: The Autobiography

Biographies are a passion for me. I approach each with an open mind ready to hear the writer’s story. My interest in music, love of rock and roll, and respect for great guitar musicianship lead me to read Eric Clapton’s autobiography.

Sex, booze, drugs and rock and roll fill the celebrated guitarist’s autobiography. As he retraces his career, from the early stints with the Yardbirds, Cream, and Derek and The Dominoes to his solo successes, Clapton also devotes great detail to his drug and alcohol addictions.

You get the back-story of his life as you learn he was raised by his grandparents. You learn that his mother was 15 when she became pregnant with him and that his father was a Canadian soldier. He struggles all his life with his background.

A major influence/obsession in his life was Pattie Boyd (former wife of Beatle George Harrison). His relationship with the Boyd for whom he wrote Layla culminated in a turbulent marriage. He spends great detail on their relationship as well as other female relationships.

I enjoyed reading about how he taught himself to play the guitar. I learned that he never learned to read music. He describes his playing style as a variation of the folk music claw-hammer style. He says he uses the top two strings of his guitar for the bass line, the middle two strings for rhythm, and the bottom two strings for playing lead guitar. He shares how he selected his guitars. We learn how the gauge of the strings and the distance between fret and neck influenced his ability to play.

You get the story of his son Connor, his accidental death, and the song Tears in Heaven.We learn of the impact of the death of Stevie Ray Vaughn on his life.

Clapton warms to the subject of his recovery, stressing its spiritual elements and how he started the Crossroads Clinic in Antigua. He eagerly discusses the fund-raising efforts for his Crossroads clinic and the Crossroads Guitar/Music Festivals he used to raise money for the clinics. Sharing this personal journey into addiction and recovery is therapeutic for him.

His reflecting is filled with humility, particularly in the form of unhappiness with his early successes. He professes ambivalence about the famous Clapton is God graffiti, although he admits he was grateful for the recognition from fans. At times, he sounds more like landed nobility than a rock star. He shares about his collection of contemporary art, enthusiastically defending his hunting and fishing as leisure activities, and extolling the qualities of his quiet country living. But both the youthful excesses and the current calm state are narrated with a charming tone that pushes Clapton’s story ahead of other rock and roll memoirs. This is a well written book that is worth the purchase price and time you invest in reading.

Leave a Reply