Rock

Eric Clapton’s Self-Sabotage That Jeopardized His Entire Career

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In 1976, during a Birmingham concert, Eric Clapton stirred a significant controversy that would leave an indelible mark on his reputation. Under a haze of drugs and alcohol, he publicly endorsed the National Front, a notorious far-right political party in the UK, and made derogatory comments about foreigners.

The incident was widely reported in the British press and was revisited in the 2017 documentary, ‘Life In 12 Bars.’ Reflecting on this in a post-screening Q&A in London, Clapton expressed profound remorse, stating:

“I undermined all my achievements. I deeply regretted becoming this quasi-racist figure, especially since many of my friends were black. I had even dated a black woman and always held black music in high regard.”

Amidst the increasing anti-immigration sentiments in the UK, fueled by political figures like Enoch Powell, Clapton controversially endorsed these views during his 1976 performance. He shockingly parroted the National Front’s slogan and addressed the audience with:

“Are there any foreigners here tonight? If so, could you show yourselves? Well, if you’re here, I believe you should leave. Not just this venue, but our nation. I don’t think you belong here or in my homeland.”

Among the concert-goers were notable Clapton fans, including then-high school student and later author, Caryl Phillips, and singer Dave Wakeling. Both expressed their astonishment and disenchantment with Clapton’s outburst. Wakeling later recounted the confusion in the hall, saying:

“As the rant continued, everyone wondered if it was some twisted joke. But as it became clear it wasn’t, a ripple of disbelief spread. Post-concert discussions were dominated by shock over what he’d just said.”

This unfortunate episode played a key role in propelling the Rock Against Racism movement. While some fans turned away from Clapton and his music, he continued with his career, releasing ‘Slowhand’ in 1977.

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