Reviewed in the United States on March 28, 2021
Controversy (and my mass confusion) note: Clapton has claimed to have been drunk when he made terrible racist remarks in the later 1970s, and said he had developed into a racist during his severe alcohol years, like it was a temporary condition. He was a *very* nasty drunk. However, apologize as he might, he has continued to heap praise on Enoch Powell, England's most famous anti-immigration fascist, who he claimed to idolize, even as recently as 2007. I could, and had, forgiven what was first reported he said (I didn't hear about this until decades later, probably kept quiet by his record label, etc), and believed his excuse, that it was due to his 24/7 almost fatal alcoholism. I mean, it IS pretty crazy, due to his deep roots and love for Black music, many Black (musician) friends, and relationships with Black women, but I guess the old racists' excuse, "But I have Black friends!" might apply here, that as long as he knew them personally, they were ok, but others not. So now that I've seen his complete, and repeated statements, it was obviously something he had given a lot of, albeit drunken, and sober, thought to (not so "oblivious", as he has said). They are among the most offensive things I've ever heard and I'm deeply ashamed of him. Plus the many opportunities he's had to denounce Powell isn't a good look. While I don't expect artists I love to be perfect human beings, and indeed, the creative mind seems tied to an often dissolute life, these things are too difficult to forget or forgive. He joined Van Morrison on an anti-mask, anti-lockdown single and rhetoric, as people were dying of covid left and right. Just so disappointed in my idol. Idols are created to fall, and while I can forgive them most things, these are not some of them.
However, before all of this came my enduring and now confused love of all things Clapton. It's just so sad, because I modeled my guitar playing after him (his technique is so pure) and my love of blues is almost entirely due to him. I idolized this man from the age of 14 (1967). The Crossroads solo from the live Cream album, Wheels of Fire, is one of the best ever. His solos were like a 747 taking off, and you had to hang on for the ride, but his playing laid back into the rest of the track so completely (unlike many of his contemporaries). He was like no one before. His guitar made a glistening, soulful, masterful, melodic, tasteful, exotic sound, whether a Gibson or Fender. The incredible musical moments and sheer joy he gave me were over and above practically anyone else. Blind Faith. Hearing the Layla album for the first time, not realizing it was HIM, but the wonder when I found out (he AND Duane, what could be finer?!).
This is definitely better than all the budget bios out there, on either Clapton or his bands, esp the ones without music rights, which don't even deserve a mention. There's a lot of music clips, but mostly the main hits and important cuts, but it's more about his life than a discography. But some key events are missing: It doesn't include the aforementioned solo from Crossroads. And for a film focusing so much on Clapton as a man, it leaves out a lot of personal info, which was in his autobiography that this film was supposed made from. And things that had a huge effect on him. Like Duane Allman's tragic death in the early part of Clapton's downward spiral, about a year after Hendrix. It also alluded to George Harrison's many affairs, but the capper was his extended relationship with Maureen Star, Ringo's wife at the time. I believe that was the last straw for Pattie with George, and probably sent her headlong into the troubled arms of Clapton before she realized what had happened to him in the intervening years. This film doesn't even talk about Pattie and Clapton finally getting married, or their divorce. It seems after so much lead up to he and Pattie getting together, you'd think they might have mentioned they got married (before moving onto his son with another woman), which was a whole other weird Clapton story. And how Clapton's rehab led to their divorce, another important item, esp in the context of the theme of this film (rather sad, as he claims to not remember and not to have truly loved Pattie). These things are well chronicled in both Clapton's and Pattie's bios. The film could have been longer, to include these things, with more music. Thus 4stars instead of 5. NOT rating Clapton's politics here.