Eric Clapton Found New Motivation in His Protest Songs
Eric Clapton said he’d found new inspiration in the idea of writing the protest songs that caused a backlash and lost him friends.
He said he hadn’t felt “socially involved” with his own performances in recent years, and his objection to coronavirus measures – expressed in the Van Morrison collaborations “Stand and Deliver” and “This Has Gotta Stop” – helped him find motivation that had been “dormant.”
In a new interview with the Real Music Observer (video below), Clapton said his “career had almost gone anyway” when he found new inspiration in the global vaccination process. “I got the tip that Van was standing up to the measures, and I thought, ‘Why isn’t anybody else doing this?’” he recalled. “And we go back – I've known him since we were kids [so] I contacted him [and] said, ‘What do you think? What’s going on?’ And he said, ‘I’m just objecting, really. But it seems like we're not even allowed to do that. And nobody else is doing it.’”
The conversation led to their collaborations – including “The Rebels,” a reworking of Morrison’s “Where Have All the Rebels Gone?” – but Clapton found himself taking the concept of protesting further after he spoke to other musicians. “I was kind of mystified because I seemed to be the only person that thought that was an exciting or even appropriate idea with what was going on,” he explained, “and that challenged me even more... I’m cut from the cloth where if you tell me I can’t do something, I really want know why I can’t do it.”
He described the resulting backlash as “like I’d had a wall built around me,” but added: “I did make concessions; I did take out lines or change lines a little bit just to pacify those that I really didn’t want to hurt… And needless to say, my family and friends, they got scared, and I think they were scared on my behalf.” He said he’d come to believe that there was a wider theme of controlling people’s lives, summed up in the concept “you will own nothing and you will be happy,” which he felt had been under development for some time. He explored the argument in his recent song “Heart of a Child.”
“And that made me even more resolute,” he continued. “In the U.K., we have the BBC, and it used to be an impartial commentary on world affairs and state affairs. And suddenly it was completely one-way traffic about following orders and obedience. And I felt really motivated, musically. It instigated something which really was laying dormant. I was just playing live gigs up until the lockdown without really being socially involved in any way.” He argued: “I have a tool, I have a calling, and I can make use of that. So I set about it and started writing.”
Watch Eric Clapton on the ‘Real Music Observer’