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Right-wing writers rush to defend pro-racist anti-vaxxer Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton still hasn’t properly apologized for an onstage racist rant

Eric Clapton is in the news again not for his guitar playing but for the financial and logistical support he’s given to a group of anti-vax/anti-lockdown musicians who travel about the UK singing songs about “poison” vaccines and the like.

This comes after Clapton himself recorded a few anti-lockdown songs (working with fellow fallen idol Van Morrison some of the time) with a distinctly paranoid edge. (See the creepy video for one of them here.)

A few days ago, David Browne of Rolling Stone reported on Clapton’s bankrolling the anti-vax buskers. The magazine also took the opportunity to remind us that Clapton, once worshipped as a guitar god, has been a raving, racist asshole for decades.

The key evidence? A series of drunken racist rants that Clapton delivered onstage at a concert back in 1976, in which he lashed out at immigrants and people of color and repeatedly praised uber-racist UK politician Enoch Powell.

You might think that too much time has passed since the 70s for anyone to care much about this but the thing is, as racist rants go, this was a really really really racist one.

He reportedly castigated “wogs” and “coons,” told immigrants to go back to their countries of origin before the UK became a “black colony,” and topped it off with a call to “keep Britain white.” Plus the Enoch Powell bit. (There is some dispute over what exactly he said, and there’s no recording of it, but contemporary press coverage and ear-witness recollections agree on most of the details; see Snopes for more.)

Clapton has never denied the rant, though he’s tried to distance himself from it and, over the years, he’s made some rather anemic attempts to apologize for it. His excuse? He was drunk at the timr (though obviously being drunk doesn’t make you racist); he’s also kept up the praise for Enoch Powell, whom he still seems to adore.

So naturally, right-wing media outlets are lining up to defend Clapton and lambaste Rolling Stone for having the temerity to challenge a famous white dude on his racism.

Matt Margolis at PJ Media decries what he called Rolling Stone’s “flimsy” accusations of racism, arguing that the magazine’s

regurgitation of the decades-old Clapton remarks feels like a bizarre detour, serving the purpose of piling on anything negative about Clapton to assist in his being canceled. Clapton’s past remarks had no impact on his decades-long career, so they are most certainly beside the point.

The fact that Clapton got away with these remarks at the time they were made doesn’t mean we have to ignore them today; they say a great deal about Clapton’s (shitty) character, just as Mel Gibson’s still-infamous antisemitic rants tell us a lot about him, even though they were uttered way back in 2006.

Louder With Crowder writer Brodigan dismisses Clapton’s vicious racial slurs as “comments he made in 1976 that don’t measure up to 2021 sensitivities.” Never mind that they didn’t “measure up to” 1976 standards either; the tirade shocked people at the time.

Then Brodigan takes aim at Rolling Stone, declaring that

this is the same magazine that trashed Layla,” one of the greatest rock songs of all time. Whether it’s music or politics, Rolling Stone is only good for lining the litter box.

On Newsbusters, Matt Philbin does his best to wave the accusations away, writing that

[d]uring a 1976 concert in England, Clapton said some impolitic things about immigration to Britain and used what Rolling Stone calls “offensive slurs.” Did I mention this was back in 1976?

And that’s pretty much the end of the discussion.

On RedState.com, a writer called Bonchie does his rightist comrades one better, accusing “the hysterics” of trying to “destroy Eric Clapton for COVID wrong-think” — and only mentioning the accusations of racism in passing, noting disingenuously that Clapton had made comments that Rolling Stone “claim[s] are racist.”

Nah, dude, they’re about as racist as it is possible for anyone to get.

It’s worth noting that none of these writers are willing to actually quote the slurs in question directly — one suspects that is because even today they have the capacity to shock. Direct quotes would undermine their collective argument that Clapton’s racist language was no big deal, yawn.

You might call this (slow)hand-waving.

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Alan Robertshaw
14 days ago

Never mind that they didn’t “measure up to” 1976 standards either; the tirade shocked people at the time.

Indeed. Clapton’s rant was one of the main motivators for the Rock Against Racism movement.

this is the same magazine that trashed Layla,” one of the greatest rock songs of all time

It’s a relatively trivial point in the grand scheme of things, but they’re wrong on that too. Rolling Stone gave Layla quite good reviews at the time.

At least Layla survives to tell the tale. As for whose guitar is playing what, Duane provides most of the bottlenecking (but not all, I’ll wager), while Eric continues in his recent vein of sharp, stinging, high-pitched, harmonic-overtones picking. Behind them, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, and Carl Radle demonstrate again and again that Booker T. and the MG’s no longer have a corner on the Memphis-tight rhythm market.

…And, at last, “Layla” — another powerful opening, a strange Bobby Blandish chorus (“Layla, you got me on my knees; Layla, I’m beggin’ you, please”), a streaming and churning mid-section, and a lengthy piano solo (by Bobby?) edged by almost-unheard guitars that becomes an extended fade a la Nicky Hopkins.

And as for Layla, forget any indulgences and filler — it’s still one hell of an album. Clapton’s not God, but him and Skydog and the Dominos together do make for an hour or so of heaven. Maybe critics, audience, and musicians can agree, just this once.

~ Rolling Stone 24 Dec 1970

(I like to point out to people that Clapton didn’t play the iconic guitar lick; that was Duane Allman)

personalpest
personalpest
14 days ago

1. I see Alan beat me to mentioning Rock Against Racism. I recommend reading the Wikipedia article he linked to, because RAR had a fascinating story.

2. About the Layla thing. Since Brodigan provides no citation, we can’t be sure which Rolling Stone article he’s talking about, or if he even remembers it correctly. Of course, it’s possible that someone at RS has criticized the album since it first came out.

3. It’s sad and surprising that someone like Clapton, who has taken so much influence from black music and has played with and befriended many black musicians, could still disparage blacks as a group. It probably shouldn’t be, though.

4. Of course, Clapton’s defenders don’t really care whether he said racist crap in 1976 or yesterday; they’d support him either way because they agree with him. And of course they like the anti-vaxx bullshit too.

Kat, ambassador, feminist revolution (in exile)
Kat, ambassador, feminist revolution (in exile)
14 days ago

Louder With Crowder writer Brodigan dismisses Clapton’s vicious racial slurs as “comments he made in 1976 that don’t measure up to 2021 sensitivities.” Never mind that they didn’t “measure up to” 1976 standards either; the tirade shocked people at the time.

Tirades against nonwhite people? I was a young adult in 1976, and that kind of thing was unacceptable.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
14 days ago

I guess Clapton didn’t get the shot from the sheriff…

this is the same magazine that trashed “Layla”, one of the greatest rock songs of all time

Yeah, about Layla…the guitar riff was lifted from Albert King’s “As The Years Go Passing By” (sped up), and the piano coda was stolen from Rita Coolidge, via her ex-boyfriend Jim Gordon. When she confronted Clapton’s manager, Robert Stigwood, about it, she was told to get lost: “You’re a girl, what’re you gonna do?”

And of course, the entire song was written in order to steal George Harrison’s wife.

I point all this out because conservative white guys love to appropriate things and take credit for inventing all of civilization.

Last edited 14 days ago by Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Nequam
Nequam
14 days ago

As a friend of mine elsewhere put it, “When I want advice on safety and being responsible I always look to partially successful baby owner Eric Clapton.”

galanx
galanx
14 days ago

“I’m not racist- I stole some of my best licks from black people”.
I remember Rowan Atkinson doing a riff on this at the time, playing a Young Conservative talking about non-white immigrants:
“Don’t call me a a racist- I actually like curry- (beat) but now that we have the recipes….”

Antonio Veltra
Antonio Veltra
14 days ago

Clapton is vaccinated, so “anti-vaxxer” is misleading. Right-wingers defend vaccinated vaccine critic, racist Eric Clapton might be better… maybe?

LollyPop
LollyPop
14 days ago

This is in no way to excuse his behaviour or attitudes (as David pointed out, being drunk doesn’t make you accidently a racist), but I’ve been thinking about these aging rockers and I wonder if the reason so many of them are kinda awful or have terrible personal lives is that they were catapulted to fame in their late teens, immediately got addicted to drugs and alcohol, and then never grew up due to the neurological impacts of addiction – all while being adored and worshipped by the public in an age where crap behaviour wasn’t often exposed or examined.

I mean, that’s got to be a pretty toxic mix on a human’s psyche?

NiOg
NiOg
14 days ago

I see it’s once again time to remind folks that the skills, qualities and personality quirks that make people good at their jobs don’t always make them good at being people.

Ten Bears
14 days ago

Maybe it’s time to admit that Clapton was never really all that good. A classic example of a product over-produced, over-hyped, over-advertised … over-sold. There are a lot of guitar players out there a lot better than him. He’s always been an arrogant sod.

LollyPop
LollyPop
14 days ago

@Ten Bears

I’m personally not a big fan of his music. But as a non-musician, my impression was that this is probably more down to style than Clapton’s sheer technical ability, which I’ve been told is very impressive. A bit like John Mayer, who I am also not keen on.

Although I’m sure there are loads of guitarists who don’t get the attention or acclaim they deserve because for some reason our media is obsessed with venerating a tiny group of very old white guys.

epitome of incomrepehensibility

IMO, the best way to judge how someone’s past scandals reflect on them is to look at what they’ve done since. Like if they have a pattern of being racist/misogynist/etc., which seems to be the case here.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
14 days ago

Orac wrote about some of the background to this back in May with About Eric Clapton’s adverse reaction to AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Among other things, he points out that while Clapton likely did indeed have a severe reaction to the vaccination, it would have been also most likely have been an inflammation from the vaccine triggering his peripheral neuropathy, so not a reaction that most people would have to worry about. Not to mention a reaction that the actual virus would have caused.
He also made comments about the ‘Stand and Deliver’ song recorded with Van Morrison and how horribly overwrought that was:

As others have pointed out, there’s nothing like rich old white men like Eric Clapton and Van Morrison likening public health interventions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and thereby save many lives to “slavery.” I like what Diamond Rodrigue said about this line, “It’s likely that the closest these guys have felt to being constrained in any way is through a bad record deal.”

Note that Stand and Deliver was recorded in 2020, so Clapton being anti-vaxx/anti-mask/etc predates any vaccine reactions he had. As also noted there:

Don’t get me wrong. I really feel for performers whose livelihoods have been devastated by the pandemic; the difference is that most of them aren’t wealthy old rock heroes, who can afford to ride the pandemic out in comfort, as Clapton can in his Ewhurst Italian-style villa called “Hurtwood Edge” with his net worth of $250 million. (Van Morrison is reportedly worth $90 million.)

Playing at being enslaved and put-upon is just frankly insulting to those people who were.

CrawlingKingSnake
CrawlingKingSnake
14 days ago

If you were being defended by Der Stürmer or have received the praise of the DPRK TV news, you should face the fact that you’re a truly lost, bad, failed human being.

Clapton plays blues, for Cthulhu’s mercy! The Blackest of Black music! He covered Bob Marley’s reggae, also the Blackest of Black music!

We have a new high in clueless cultural appropriation sweepstakes in the once-talented asshole-ism of one Eric Clapton: drunken racist.

Drop dead, already, Eric, you useless but harmful fossil!

Full Metal Ox
14 days ago

@CrawlingKingSnake (may I presume that your nom de net is a Doors reference?):

Bonus points for the fact that Clapton’s most iconic song alludes to a love story of Arabic origin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Layla_and_Majnun

GSS ex-noob
GSS ex-noob
13 days ago

I’ve always thought the best part of “Layla” was the piano bit that’s the last half of the song. Which isn’t his composition.

Indeed, even in 1976 (which I am old enough to remember pretty well) his remarks were very much Not On. Even *racists* though he should have used more polite words.

@Crawling King Snake and @Nequam: perhaps your comments should be combined into “drunken racist partially successful baby-owner”?

(I mean, geez, I have reinforced screens so the cat doesn’t hurt himself when he tumbles out… on the first floor… and he’s a cat!)

Also, ever since that outburst, he has insisted “I can’t be racist, I have black friends and love blues.” Much like the Rowan Atkinson character @galanx mentioned.

Because no one who’s ever said “I have a black friend” is racist. Ever.

@Jenora: Peripheral neuropathy, huh? The only people I know who have that are diabetics, or guys who barely survived decades of alcoholism. Who generally also don’t do well when they get Covid. If he thinks the shot was bad, go ahead and have all his nerves set on fire while being unable to breathe. Kinda hard to play guitar when your nerves don’t work.

iforget
iforget
10 days ago

@ Ten Bears

I notice you have the cascadian bioregional flag for an avatar. I assume you are familiar with the history and context:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cascadia_(independence_movement)

But you may not be aware the designer of the flag, Alex Baretich aka ‘A Cascadian’ was involved for years in local conspiracy groups and email lists promoting right wing racist conspiracies, as reported by Antifa:

https://antiracistaction.org/statement-on-anti-semites-and-their-collaborators-2/

https://rosecityantifa.org/articles/portland-911-truth-alliance-hosts-right-wing-bomber-courtesy-of-citybikes-president-tim-calvert/

Baretich subscribed to these private lists when they were planning events and doxxing poc and antifascists. Some of this information was passed on to the FBI after 1/6.

I’m not saying you or anyone using the flag is a Holocaust denier racist separatist. There is an appealing romance for people on the west coast of “Cascadia”. Baretich himself is probably just a free speech big tent libertarian idiot in denial of white privilege.

But you should be aware the branding has been used to drag leftists, anarchists and others into the orbit of racist right-wing politics. Just look at the Calvert guy who started the anarchist book store: he operated for 25 YEARS in left circles before being exposed as a Holocaust denier.

FYI