Eric Clapton, Go in Peace

Today I was listening to Clapton’s “Crossroads” and I didn’t change the channel.  I don’t think that’s ever happened before.  I guess I’ve made my peace with him.

It’s hard for me to put into words what annoys the shit out of me about Clapton.  I’m not opposed to British dudes recasting the blues.  I’m all about the troubled love and theft that fuels our creative engines.  I’m not opposed to his guitar playing.

In part, I think it’s this.  Somehow, Eric Clapton remains a student of the blues.   Just for comparison, I looked up Jimmy Page and “student of the blues” and got nothing.  But do that search with Clapton and all kinds of things pop up, like this article from the New York Times.

Today in, there’s an article about the writer and director of “Black Snake Moan” and he’s talking about the blues.  At the end, he says,  

They don’t realize it’s true exorcism music. These men of the Delta
were not Uncle Toms. They were bad-asses in a time when you could get
hung from a tree for speaking your mind. They were the first to sing
about injustice and pain. And to sing about the injustice of the heart.

And maybe that’s the difference between Page and Clapton for me.  I believe that Page is, if not exorcising, at least wrestling with demons.  I still feel like Clapton is practicing for the time when he may be called on to do that work.

But in the end, I guess, I don’t see the crime in that. 


18 thoughts on “Eric Clapton, Go in Peace

  1. Girlfriend, I have to differ with you on this. First of all, a disclaimer: I adore Clapton. His ’91 concert tour was one of my favorites of all time.Clapton has wrestled with many demons in his life, first and foremost being addiction. His struggles are well documented, and since is sobriety, he has created a rehab center in Antigua. He may not have had the threat of hanging from a tree, but his life was uncontrollably in danger many times from his addiction. Secondly, he hasn’t exactly been a winner in the love department, and who hasn’t sang the blues in those regards? Thirdly, and most applicable, is the loss of his 5 year old son, Connor, who accidentally died from a terrible fall in NYC. So, imho, I think he’s long gone from practicing to truly exorcising the many demons he’s wrestled much of his life.He rocks! :)

  2. No, I know he’s has those things happen. It’s just that, when I listen to his music, I don’t hear it. I find his music to be like a highly polished stone. I’ve got no place to grab onto and connect with him.I respect that other people like him. I just don’t understand it.

  3. hmmmm…highly polished stone…maybe that is actually what I like about him…in thinking about the type of music I like, that would make sense…

  4. I like Eric Clapner (as Jocelyn Elders once called him). I wouldn’t have his baby or anything, but I won’t neccessarily change the channel if he comes on.But I find it interesting how much we reveal about ourselves when we give our opinion of "polish" in music.Ginger, if I’m reading you right, since you have a musical background, you see "polish" and know firsthand how hard that is to accomplish. It’s worthy of admiration in and of itself.Aunt B, if I’m understanding you correctly, you cannot feel a connection to the musician unless you can hear it coming from their very soul.My guess: one of you views music as a craft, the other views it as art.I believe it’s both.From a musician’s standpoint, Jimmy Page is a horribly sloppy guitar player. Sometime’s I cringe when I hear some of his solos. But at the same time, you don’t HEAR his solos as much as FEEL them. That’s good art.I get ribbed a lot because I liked, and still like, Journey. Yes, they were "corporate", slick, pop. But in his heyday, Steve Perry was the best tenor in all of music, all genres. He was perfect. Neal Schon is the exact opposite. While others play their solos at hyperspeed, Neal plays what I consider to be the most expressive guitar in rock. They were a wonderful convergence of craft and art.One final thing about this dichotomy: anybody remember a few years back when country radio was playing dueling versions of "How Do I Live"? Leann Rimes’ version was near perfection, yet her young age meant she had nothing to draw upon in her interpretation. She might has well been singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb". I couldn’t stand it.At the same time, Trisha Yearwood had a version that sent chills down the spine. She sang it from deep down in the gut. You felt every word, every emotion. I absolutely love that version.Interestingly, Rimes’ version was the hit.

  5. I get what you’re saying B, I think he plays all the right notes, but they’ve been learned from others and played before and lack something. Emotion, maybe. I kinda like his stuff, but I don’t think of him as much of an innovator.

  6. Slarti, I see music as both craft *and* art… the two are not mutually exclusive. Yes, you can get so polished and so perfect that you lose the heart (i.e., a record that has been engineered to death); however, you can also have a skilled and polished performance that maintains the heart and soul of its essence (i.e., Tony Bennett, etc.).As for Clapton, I don’t consider his work from the 70s & 80s to be highly polished at all. From the Journeyman album on, he has gotten more "produced", but I still enjoy it. There are definitely more soulful blues singers & players out there, but I don’t think that negates his art at all. Just my humble opinion…we all have our tastes…

  7. Slarti, I liked Journey too, but at some point, it became ALL about Perry’s voice, over and over, same note, ad nauseum. And slick ain’t always bad. I loved Concrete Blonde, (talk about a tenor) even after they supposedly went "mainstream."Clapton? Good stuff, for about ten minutes.I love me some Aunt B, but how can you trust someone’s taste in music when they give no props to Steely Dan? I keep shaking my head….I don’t think I’ve ever heard Ginger not like any kind of music. A fan, to be sure.

  8. I don’t own any Clapton albums. But once, around ’92 I think, I was at a Little Feat show in a small intimate place in LA. As a surprise, Clapton came out and jammed with them for about 10 minutes.I gotta tell ya – I got chills.

  9. B, which version of "Crossroads," for heaven’s sake? The one from Wheels of Fire? I always hear blood dripping from every note of that recording. Yes, Clapton has great technical mastery. But it isn’t empty technique. I think this is what Slarti is saying, in a different way. A music list I used to be on could argue for a week over chops vs. soul (as we called it) in the work of any artist. But the greatest have both, and to me, Clapton (before he decided he’d rather be J.J. Cale) was one of those.

  10. Wait. How did you know about my hatred of Steely Dan? I thought only Elias knew about that.NM, I don’t know. Which ever one was on the radio. I think it was live, if that helps. The thing about Clapton is (and this is why I eventually had to make my peace with him) I can hear why people like him. It’s not a mystery to me why people do. It’s just that I am, I think, some kind of tone deaf to him.

  11. Hmmm. I find myself disagreeing with B, which doesn’t happen often….I’ve loved Clapton for about 20 years….I have some actors that I haven’t even gotten to "make my peace" stage with though. The majority of moviegoers love them, and I loathe them so much I have to leave the theater when they’re up there trying to act…

  12. Aunt B, do yourself this favor. Run to your favorite source of music, pick up "Bell Bottom Blues" and "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad" and really any other random cut from "Layla and Other Assorted Lovesongs" (technically billed as being by Derek and the Dominoes, and also featuring support from Duane Allman), and you will know the power that Clapton once had. This man was simultaneously embracing and kicking the ass of his demons. After that, you might try the John Mayall and Bluesbreakers album.Forget all the crap he’s done after 1971. Even the best of it – and the latest record with J.J. Cale is downright listenable – is more about taunting the demons he used to hang with than anything like "Layla."

  13. Think I will have to agree with Steve here. Clapton’s years with/as The Yardbirds, Cream, Derek & the Dominoes, etc., all gives me shivers.Anything much later – not so much. The "it" that guitar greats have, I feel like he lost right about when Steve said.I think "Cocaine" was one of his finer moments since (even though I hated that song when it came out), but still only a glimmer of what used to be.

  14. If you want evidence of his torture in less than fully polished form.. and for free no less. go to Wolfgang’s Vault (online) and pull up the Derek and the Dominos Concert (theres only one). Listen to “Why does love got to be so sad”. Absolutely gut wrenching, raw, emotional and transcendant.

  15. Late to the party, but what the hey:

    Apropos of the Leeann Rimes discussion —

    Listening to Trent Reznor’s singing of his own song “Hurt”, I think of some whiny little emo-teen playing at being hurt and saying Bad Words to shock Mom.

    Listening to Johnny Cash’s version — with Reznor’s original and puerile “crown of shit” line turned into “crown of thorns” — I hear a man who truly has not only earned the right to sing about hurt (both suffered and caused by him), but who quietly, deliberately, slowly rips your heart out without any fuss.

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