Eric Clapton’s friends and collaborators discuss the rock legend’s anti-lockdown stance — and defend him against allegations of racism — in a new report.
Following a string of anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown tracks, Rolling Stone detailed Clapton’s descent from just speaking about his vaccine skepticism to actually bankrolling it.
Clapton’s associates are similarly perplexed by his recent stance, with many labeling Clapton as largely apolitical. “He’s the anti-Bono,” Clapton’s former label manager Bill Oakes told the Washington Post. “He is the epitome of someone who is there for the music, and he’s never rubbed shoulders with world leaders and never wanted to.”
The Rolling Stone report followed Clapton’s U.S. tour, where he specifically sought out venues where mandates (masked or vaccinations) didn’t apply. Along the way, Clapton performed a series of shows in Texas; Gov. Greg Abbott — himself opposed to mandates — stopped by backstage and shared a photo with the guitar god on social media.
While the photo-op appeared to brand Clapton as an Abbott supporter — and thus, a supporter of Texas’ strict abortion bill — the guitarist’s business manager Michael Eaton told the Washington Post that isn’t the case. “He is a great believer in freedom of choice, which drives his position on vaccinations, and his views on other matters would reflect that belief in freedom of choice,” Eaton said.
Producer Russ Titelman, who produced Clapton’s Unplugged as well as his pandemic-recorded Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions, told the Washington Post that the sessions were nearly derailed when Clapton wanted to perform his anti-lockdown song “Stand and Deliver” for the LP; the record label ultimately rejected that plan.
“Stand and Deliver” also caused a rift between Clapton and blues great Robert Cray, who was originally recruited to open on Clapton’s U.S. tour. The song lyrics that likened the Covid lockdown to slavery — “Do you wanna be a free man/Or do you wanna be a slave?/Do you wanna wear these chains/Until you’re lying in the grave?” — drew the ire of Cray, who got into a heated email exchange with Clapton over the track. Cray would eventually cease communicating with Clapton, and drop off his tour.
While Clapton’s associates remain confused by the rocker’s Covid stance — although it has been revealed that part of Clapton’s reticence toward vaccines stems from a needle phobia and that he only snorted heroin during his Seventies addiction with the drug — they all defended Clapton against the accusations that he’s racist, saying the infamous 1976 Birmingham concert and its “full-tilt racist” rant was an isolated incident.
“In the Olympics, they throw out the best score and the worst score,” Clapton’s current bandmate Nathan East told the Washington Post. “You get the measure of a person not on the day they did the very, very best thing they did and not the day they did the very worst thing they did.”