Review– Eric Clapton, the Autobiography

Review: Clapton, the Autobiography
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published October 9th 2007, Broadway
It always feels a little odd to write a review of an autobiography. It’s rather like writing a review of someone’s life, and if that’s not a scary thought, you’re probably not paying attention. Sure, it’s simply the expression of one life from the viewpoint of the one who lived it, not the actual life. For something more objective, I’d look to any biography done by someone who wasn’t an absolute acolyte of the subject. When the one who tells the story is the one who was there, “objective” isn’t what you look for. When the subject is someone like Eric Clapton, it’s more a chance to ask the implied question–“What were you thinking?”

That’s what you get here, and more besides. I didn’t know, for instance, that Clapton was born out of wedlock and effectively abandoned by his mother, who went on to form another family that didn’t include him. Considering some of what happened in his future relationships with women, amateur psychologists would have a party with that snippit, and likely already have. I just know that the man has had an extremely interesting life. The term “guitar god” was practically invented for Clapton, even though there were plenty of earlier players who could lay claim to the title, and he lived the life of one, and damn near died the death of one. The story of how he pulled himself out of the downward spiral of drugs and alcohol when so many of his peers never made it is worth the price of admission alone.

Your average biography will give you Clapton the Rock Star, Clapton the Guitar God, Clapton the hard-partying celebrity. While this book doesn’t ignore those things–and how could it?–this is the book that gives you Eric Clapton the man. Which, to me, is a lot more interesting. Oh, and if you ever wanted to hear the story behind the love triangle that led to the classic song “Layla,” as told by one of the–admittedly biased–people who were there, this too is the place. That’s what an autobiography is for. It’s what happened, from the writer’s own point of view. Sometimes inadvertently saying more than it perhaps intended, but whether the case or not, all part of the same story.

Review: When I left Home-My Story by Buddy Guy with David Ritz

Da Capo Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-306-82179-0

 

The great bluesman Buddy Guy’s story in some ways was the story of any bluesman who left the South for Chicago near the middle of the 20th century, lured by the electified sound of what’s now called the Chicago Blues, created by earlier artists like Muddy Waters, Earl Hooker, and Howlin’ Wolf. In some ways it’s not like so many other artists’ stories at all, for so many of them lived and died in complete obscurity. That was not Buddy Guy’s destiny, and of course that’s the bulk of what this book is about.

Buddy’s early life as a sharecropper’s son in Louisiana, however, is not given short shrift. There’s a good deal of fascinating detail about what life for a black man was like at that time and in that place, the strong values his parents imbued in him, and what led him to music in the first place. This information has to inform the reader’s understanding of the next phase of his life, when he left home to make his fortune in Chicago. Continue reading