Clapton’s pulling no punches in rollercoaster biopic

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Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars (15)

Verdict: Terrific documentary

Rating:

This absorbing documentary about the great rock guitarist is made with its subject’s enthusiastic collaboration, which might be a problem were he not so disarmingly candid about some of the more abject lows in his 72-year rollercoaster ride of a life.

Tragically, these include the death in 1991 of his four-year-old son Conor, who fell from the 53rd floor of a New York apartment block. Yet Clapton credits Conor’s death with turning his own life around. He used it to help kick his drink and drug dependency, and to exist from that point on ‘to honour the memory of my son’.

There is plenty of fantastic footage of Clapton’s illustrious career, from his start with The Yardbirds through the years with Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek And The Dominos, and one wonderful clip of him jamming with Chuck Berry and Keith Richards.

There is plenty of fantastic footage of Clapton's illustrious career (pictured in 1975), from his start with The Yardbirds through the years with Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek And The Dominos

There is plenty of fantastic footage of Clapton's illustrious career (pictured in 1975), from his start with The Yardbirds through the years with Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek And The Dominos

There is plenty of fantastic footage of Clapton’s illustrious career (pictured in 1975), from his start with The Yardbirds through the years with Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek And The Dominos

Among those providing voiceovers is Pattie Boyd, with whom Clapton fell in love when she was married to his best friend George Harrison. ‘You know how some people have that stare that’s longer than it should be . . . I caught a couple of those,’ says Boyd, recalling how Eric let her know that he wanted to steal her from George.

The Clapton that emerges from Lili Fini Zanuck’s excellent film is a highly complex, often generous but not always very nice man, enduringly damaged by the discovery, when he was nine, that the woman he thought was his mother was actually his grandmother, and by his actual mother’s subsequent rejection of him.

One of his long-term girlfriends explains how hard it often was to communicate with him, that she’d try to talk and would just get a guitar riff back.

Tragically, some of the more abject lows in his 72-year rollercoaster ride of a life include the death  of his four-year-old son Conor

Tragically, some of the more abject lows in his 72-year rollercoaster ride of a life include the death  of his four-year-old son Conor

Tragically, some of the more abject lows in his 72-year rollercoaster ride of a life include the death of his four-year-old son Conor

His extravagant talent, however, is not in doubt.

Nor is his place in entertainment history. The great B.B. King even credits him with enabling his own career, by opening the ears of white audiences to blues music.

That’s not a bad legacy.

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