The celebrated rock guitarist pens an uneven yet engrossing memoir.
Clapton has enjoyed a colorful and eventful career for four decades, and he has long been among the most reticent of interview subjects, so the English axeman’s autobiography is cause for some celebration. The book will aggravate those who want to know more about the nuts and bolts of his long-lasting stardom, though he dutifully, if somewhat perfunctorily, marches through his musical history. Born illegitimate in rural Surrey and raised by his grandparents, Clapton became a blues fanatic and took up guitar as a youth. Barely in his 20s, he found immediate fame as a wizardly soloist in a succession of storied bands: the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek & The Dominos. The ever-hesitant Clapton still appears uneasy about delving too deeply into the dynamics of these legendary groups, though here and there he offers an amusing backstage anecdote or a penetrating glimpse of such bandmates as drummer Ginger Baker and keyboardist Steve Winwood, or contemporaries like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. His tale is most compelling, and his narrative voice strongest, when he writes about the vicissitudes of his romantic life and his protracted struggle with heroin addiction and alcoholism. He emotionally replays his agonizing affair and long, rocky relationship with Pattie Boyd, George Harrison’s wife when he met her, and he is bluntly honest about the years he lost to junk and drink before he finally sobered up for good 20 years ago. Clapton is also movingly candid about the accidental death of his son Conor in 1991. His account of the founding of his Antiguan drug-and-alcohol facility Crossroads powerfully affirms the guitarist’s commitment to recovery. The book peters out in its last pages, as Clapton muses on marital commitment and late-life parenthood.
Weakest on musical recollections and career arcs, but some overwhelmingly poignant and wrenching personal meditations make the book a success.