Clapton: The Autobiography

After reading this book, after living through Eric Clapton’s life with him, after experiencing unrequited love and musical genius and staggering addiction and crushing depression, I think I can safely say that I know him pretty well. If he walked up to me today, the guitar god that he is, I could have a conversation with him. And you know what? So could all the other people who read his book.

How cool is that? How cool is it for a big-selling artist like that to open himself up, completely, in a book that he knew would sell a ton of copies? Maybe he didn’t think it would sell so well, but he certainly had to know that his name alone would cause them to shell out the $15 to read his life story. I think it’s pretty cool. I’m pretty sure you’ve figured that out, though.

You do have to read it to understand it, because the man’s life is so complicated and simple at the same time, but there are standout moments and astonishing moments all over the place that serve well to preview the book, anyway. Clapton’s writing style is so demonstrative of his personality, or at least how I imagine his personality to be, and it’s so endearing. He transitions between accomplishments, like signing with Columbia Records before the age of 21, and turning points, like seeing “Clapton is God” graffiti’d for the first time, with a charming nonchalance. It’s not that he’s trying to be modest — there are also times when he’s extraordinarily proud of himself and he makes it known — he just isn’t that impressed with certain things that have happened to him. Other things, though, make more of an impression on him, like passing presences, producers, musicians and friends, and his happiness in these encounters radiates in the words he writes. He loves to share tiny anecdotes about this guitar or that melody or this jacket (he loves clothes!), and it’s just cute. It really is.

What’s also cute, if not a little cliche, is the drastic change in his tone between the first and second halves of the book. It’s clear that he’s genuinely happy to be clean (hopefully that wasn’t a spoiler for anyone), but his writing isn’t as … genuine. He gets pleasure out of more things as a sober individual, and while that’s terrific, it just doesn’t seem as heartfelt, though it definitely is. Maybe he’s making up for lost time. While I can’t relate to it, I can respect it.

When a life like his is laid out so clearly, you start to wonder about his, and yours, too. Who was his musical match? Who will be my match? What compelled him to write this? Will something similar ever compel me to share my life story? Will I even be worthy enough for people to read my life story? All these questions, and Clapton provides some honest answers, even if he doesn’t know the response exactly. Honesty is all you can really ask of the guy, anyway. He wrote “Layla” — he doesn’t have to say much else.

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