Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars (2017)

TV-MA   |    |  Documentary, Biography, Music


Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars (2017) Poster

A look at the life and work of guitarist Eric Clapton, told by those who have known him best, including BB King, Jimi Hendrix, and George Harrison.


7.4/10
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Director:

Lili Fini Zanuck

Writers:

Stephen 'Scooter' Weintraub, Larry Yelen

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1 March 2018 | rontepper-38401
Eric Clapton - The Man or the Genius?
I guess there are a lot of ways one can look at this documentary. It was indeed an excellent overview of one of the most gifted musicians of our generation. There is no doubt that Eric Clapton is a music legend, and in all fairness, he doesn't try to hide his shortcomings as a human being. But maybe, there in lies the problem. Some things are better left unsaid.

This documentary gives us an excellent background to the man behind the music and deals honestly with his life and his career. I was very surprised there was no mention of his work with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett. Delaney greatly influenced his musical direction, connected him to Duane Allman and Leon Russell, and encouraged him to write and sing more- all while providing an escape from a psychological and professional rut he desperately needed escape from.

The problem I have with this documentary is that it tries to make us feel sympathy for Clapton. Yes, he grew up being rejected by his real mother (who he only met twice and never really knew), but his Grandparents who raised him blessed his childhood. So, why all the self pity? They continually brought up that his Grandparents raising him (as opposed to his biological mother), was such a tremendous trauma in his life, that he went straight downhill as a result. Really?

Truth is, he has never taken full responsibility for his own actions except by way of past reflection and for me- that wasn't enough. This documentary was filled with too many- "I really should have apologized" or "I really wished I hadn't done that" -- for my liking. It showed us how fame, fortune and self centered behavior can bring out the monster in some people, and yet leave them still looking for sympathy. Sorry. Many of us have gone through hard times in our lives. Few of us use it to justify our actions later in life.

Clapton left his original band- the Yardbirds- without notice. He later abandoned the band "Blind Faith" much like the Yardbirds- again, without notice. He influenced Delaney and Bonnie's band members into leaving them to form the "Dominos", and eventually stole a married women away from his best friend- only to abuse her later, (resulting from his battles with Alcohol). His poor judgement led to an accident in which his 5 year old son died- having fallen out of a window - evidently unsupervised by his girlfriend who he knew was mentally unstable at the time- and although he had periods later in life of showing good will towards others with benefit concerts (something almost every artist does in their careers), even his diehard fans were not spared. I was at that concert in Pittsburgh in 1986, and the movie depicts just a glimpse of what happened. It was ugly. Destroyed relationships seems to be an ongoing theme here and in some cases, one has to wonder if there was ever a relationship at all.

This movie also gives Clapton credit which was undeserved. They pointed out that he "opened the door" for all the Blues musicians, making it easier for them to get exposure to the general public- but was this a wonderful gesture on his part- or simply the byproduct of playing their music? Big difference. One can actually say without THEIR inspiration- he never would have picked up a guitar in the first place.

What really bothered me though was his failure to give credit to those who loved him and even saved him from further self destruction. Pete Townsend dragged him out of bed during his drug addiction and got him back onstage to help save not only his career but his life. Procol Harum's Gary Brooker did the same by helping him kick his alcoholism by sharing his passion for fishing. Patty Boyd? Many people helped him thru his down times, but were NEVER mentioned or given credit for any of their support along the way. For a documentary of such length, there was surely enough time.

Believe it or not, I'm a big fan of Clapton but after seeing this I'm not so sure anymore. I still love and admire his music, but there's a big difference between living the blues and playing it. Clapton's Blues were the results of his own selfish actions- unlike the Blues masters, who were TRULY dealt a bad hand in life and had to express their hardships thru their music. Many today still live in poverty- not in multi million dollar mansions.

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Documentary | Biography | Music

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