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Eric Clapton Apologizes for Racist Past: ‘I Sabotaged Everything’

The Daily Beast logo The Daily Beast 1/12/2018 Tom Sykes

a man wearing a suit and tie © Reuters The British guitar legend Eric Clapton has told of the self-disgust he felt at seeing old footage of himself chanting racist slogans at a 1976 concert in the British city of Birmingham.

Clapton was speaking at a Q&A in London following the screening of the highly anticipated biographical documentary Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars.

He said last night that watching the unedited footage, which is included in Lili Zanuck’s new film out next month, left him newly “disgusted” with himself for his “chauvinistic” and “fascistic” comments on stage.

According to the Daily Mail he added: “I sabotaged everything I got involved with.”

The legendary 18-time Grammy winner said he felt shame about the notorious incident, wherein he praised the racist Tory MP Enoch Powell, declared that Britain must stop itself from becoming a “black colony” and said “England is for white people, man.”

“I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country,” Clapton declared. “Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch’s our man. I think Enoch’s right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the w-gs out. Get the c--ns out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I'm into racism. It’s much heavier, man. ----king w-gs, man. ----ing Saudis taking over London. B-stard w-gs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black w-gs and c--ns and Arabs and ----ing Jamaicans and ----ing…don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black w-gs and c--ns living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country ..."

Clapton’s bizarre outburst, which helped spur the Rock Against Racism movement, saw him labeled a racist for many years, and he has subsequently apologized many times, blaming his addiction to drink and drugs for the outburst.

The musician reveals in the film that he would drink a bottle of cognac by midday, before snorting cocaine from a knife at lunch. 

He said: “I was so ashamed of who I was, a kind of semi-racist, which didn’t make sense. Half of my friends were black, I dated a black woman and I championed black music.”

Clapton believes that much of his addiction can be traced to the fact that he was brought up believing his grandparents were his parents and his mother was his sister. When he discovered the truth, his mother rejected him.

The film also covers the 1991 death of his four-year-old son, Conor, who fell from the 53rd floor of a New York apartment block.

Clapton says the tragedy helped him get sober, and to exist from that point on “to honor the memory of my son.”

He also discusses his romance with Pattie Boyd, whom he fell in love with when she was married to George Harrison.

“I knew it was wrong, George was my best friend,” he says, “But I felt the compulsion towards her. She was the most incredible woman I had ever met. Even though they were married I wanted her, even though she was unavailable.”

Clapton married Pattie in 1979 but they split nine years later.

Clapton—who is a three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once as a solo artist and as a member of The Yardbirds and also Cream—added: “There is no doubt. I went into a cave of self-pity and despair and the only thing that was the light at the end of the tunnel was this music.”

Related slideshow: Musicians who are 65-plus and still rocking (via Photo Services)


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