Eric Clapton performs at a profit live performance at Madison Square Garden in New York City, December 12, 2012. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The music legend made it by the storms and the self-loathing and now counts himself amongst rock’s hardiest survivors.

Just a number of weeks after Eric Clapton recorded a canopy of “Little Wing,” his buddy, the tune’s creator Jimi Hendrix, died at 27. “I went out in the garden and cried all day,” Clapton recalled. “Not because he’d gone but because he hadn’t taken me with him.”

Clapton was in a world of despair, and for years it could worsen. He’d fallen in love with Pattie Boyd, who was married to his buddy George Harrison, and as Clapton was making an attempt to persuade her to run away with him, he moved right into a Florida motel with a brand new band and a few massive luggage of cocaine. Clapton had been transfixed by the guitar enjoying of Duane Allman and invited him to file one thing collectively. Among the collaborations they recorded as Derek and the Dominos had been two of rock’s most anguished and devastating love songs: “Layla” and “Bell Bottom Blues.” “Do you want to see me crawl across the floor for you,” he requested Pattie within the latter tune, including, “If I could choose a place to die, it would be in your arms.” Rock was by no means extra impassioned, extra pushed, extra pressing and determined and pained. Clapton was handing Boyd, and the world, his entire coronary heart. Clapton and Allman by no means recorded collectively once more — Allman died in a bike accident a number of months later — however their collaboration was a monument in blues-based rock.

As director Lili Fini Zanuck exhibits in her shattering documentary Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars (streaming on Showtime), Clapton took the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs again to England with him and performed it for Pattie. “I thought when I heard it that everyone would know it was about me,” she recalled. But it nonetheless wasn’t sufficient. “It didn’t work,” he mentioned. “It was all for nothing.”

Clapton retreated. He disappeared from view for 3 years and turned his consideration first to heroin, then alcohol. In an early Seventies interview, he’s seen confessing, “I don’t like life and I’m not gonna live very long.” Of heroin, he mentioned, “It comes first,” including, “It’s like surrounding yourself with pink cotton wool.” When he went on a comeback tour in 1974, he performed half-heartedly and ceaselessly drunk. He would shout on the viewers and interact in silly rants, considered one of which, in 1976, veered into white nationalism and haunts him to today. (Every so usually, somebody rediscovers it and pushes it up the listing of trending subjects on social-media websites akin to Twitter.) “I was so ashamed of who I was,” Clapton recalled. Boyd lastly left Harrison and flew to Clapton’s arms after not having seen him in years, they usually married in 1979. But he was badly broken all through the Seventies. “He wanted to drink all the time,” she mentioned. “He became really seriously unpleasant.” Nevertheless, he wrote one more attractive tune about her, “Wonderful Tonight.”

Clapton nonetheless hadn’t put his life fairly so as when he suffered what few dad and mom would care to ponder. While his marriage to Boyd was coming aside, he had a liaison with an Italian actress, Lory del Santo, who gave start to a boy upon whom Clapton doted. To his dad, Conor’s arrival was “the first thing that happened to me in my entire life that really got to my core and told me, time to grow up.” Aged 4, Conor plunged to his demise when he fell out a window on the 53rd flooring of a Manhattan high-rise as his father, who was staying close by, was preparing to come take him out to lunch. When Clapton returned house to his nation home in England, among the many lots of of condolence notes and playing cards was a letter from Conor posted weeks earlier. “I love you,” wrote the boy in block letters. “I want to see you again.” Imagining that reunion led to a extra anguished tune than even the Derek and the Dominos tracks: “Tears In Heaven.” Clapton determined he would dwell to honor the reminiscence of his son, and based Crossroads Centre, a drug- and alcohol-rehab facility that he helps fund by charity appeals and from auctioning off a few of his guitars.

Next month, Clapton turns 76. He has 4 surviving youngsters, three of them along with his spouse since 2002, Melia McEnery. The man who as soon as mentioned, “The only reason I didn’t commit suicide was because I couldn’t drink anymore if I was dead” made it by the storms and the self-loathing. Now he counts himself amongst rock’s hardiest survivors. Perhaps he’s among the many happiest, too. He didn’t grow to be a household man till he was previous 50, however elevating youngsters in a secure surroundings turned out to be his best blessing. “My life,” he says within the documentary, “is completely full.”