« November 2008 | Main | January 2009 »

December 27, 2008

Eric Clapton and Me

Eric Clapton has haunted me all my life.  His music and personal struggles have seemed to either  validate my life experience at a particular moment in time or serve as a phantasmal specter of things to come. His early work with the Yardbirds in the mid 60's where his musical prowess awakened paralleled my own vivification as adolescences turned to young adulthood.  The formation of Cream in the late 60's brought Clapton to the US where he exploded upon the scene quickly cementing his reputation as one of the most gifted guitarist of the era as well as a hard partying drug abuser.  As his stardom continued on the rise, his drug use kept pace.  Oddly enough my own took off as well.  As the 70's streaked past Derek and the Dominos came and went but the drug and alcohol abuse stayed and got worse for us both.  His song Cocaine  was a tribute sonnet to Clapton's drug of choice and at the same time became the anthem of  my alcohol and drug use during the 70's. 

The 80's found us both struggling to settle into careers, marriages and family life trying to find the balance between the excesses of our youth and our growing responsibilities to others and espeically ourselves.  In 1991 Clapton's four year old son Conor died when he fell from a 53rd story apartment window in New York City.  My sons Josh and Dave were 10 and 7 years old at the time. Eric's grief was stunningly expressed in his haunting Tears in Heaven and I remember thinking at the time how could a father survive the tragic death of a son. 

Ten years later I got my answer to the question I wish I had never asked.  On June 2, 2001 my wife and I sat mesmerized in a fieldhouse in Indianapolis for the performance of my musical icon on the U.S. leg of his Reptile Tour .  He started off seated alone playing acoustically and was then joined by the band to play Tears in Heaven.  I remember being moved to tears as he asked his son over and over "would you know my name if I saw you in heaven."  Two songs later the tears returned when he crooned My Father's Eyes as I tried to imagine what it must be like to see the loss of a son through his eyes.  The evening ended with Somewherere Over the Rainbow and I left the hall that night feeling that perhaps Eric found peace in closing his show with a number that expressed hope that something was better beyond our immediate temporal vision of this existence.

One week later, on June 9,  I lost my 16 years old son David to addiction, and for the next seven years I have been haunted by the parallels and "premonitionns" of Eric Clapton's life and mine.  After Dave's death I banished the memory of that June 2nd concert from my consciousness refusing to acknowledge it's existence because the pain was too great for me. Recently though a dear friend persuaded me to open that wound and to read Eric's autobiography CLAPTON.... and now  the memories of that night have returned. 

And while the pain is still great, and perhaps always will be,  I do know now how a father survives the tragic death of a son.

Thank you Eric... and thank you my dear friend...Steve

December 27, 2008 at 05:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack