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Rock legend Eric Clapton isn’t too bothered by the slow death of the electric guitar, judging by declining album sales.
“Maybe the guitar is over,” Clapton, 71, told a Toronto International Film Festival press conference for Showtime’s Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, a documentary screening at TIFF this week. He admitted to having lost track of the rock music business as it continues to face digital disruption.
“I’m out of touch. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know where it’s going to go,” Clapton, who now plays only a few concerts a year, told journalists. The guitar god said his own kids listen to classic rock with the electric guitar as its foundation.
“But that may only be because that what I played to them. I brainwashed my kids,” he insisted. What is on Clapton’s mind, however, is his legacy, a preoccupation that emerged after he had a family and had long overcome the drug and alcohol addictions that underscore the darker patches of his life as captured in the doc by director Lili Zanuck.
That includes the tragic death of his four-year-old son Conor in 1991. “I haven’t had a drink for a long time. And for the first 10 years of that period, a lot of my thinking changed. It was then and after I had my children, my daughter and my son, that in a form of desperation, I had a responsibility I had to deal with,” Clapton said.
The documentary traces the musician’s early love for blues music, which inspired his early career with The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos. That led to the guitar genius’ solo years and hits like “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Lay Down Sally” and “Tears in Heaven.”
For a guitar hero who calls himself a loner, having children to whom he serves as a role model threw up a big challenge that Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars aims to surmount. “To actually consider what my behavior does to other people is still a kind of difficult thing for me to comprehend, but it’s getting better,” Clapton said.
And the message he hopes the documentary leaves audiences? “From all of that mess, I can still become a reasonably well-behaved human being, with some responsibility,” he said.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sunday.
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