Several years ago, as a demonstration about the importance of the rhythm unit (bass and drums) to a band’s sound, I had to play bass guitar to a live audience for the first time in over thirty years.
And I could barely play for more than a few seconds before the pain in my knuckles and wrist slowed me down. I haven’t touched a bass since.
At the time, I was 54 years old. How it would feel to play now, almost ten years later, I can only imagine — and how much pain I’d feel in another ten years or so is unimaginable.
Which is why I read this headline with the utmost sympathy for the man:
Musician Eric Clapton, 72, admits he’s going deaf and his “hands just about work” as he reveals concerns he will “embarrass himself” at 2018 shows
To say that I’m a fan of Eric Clapton would be one of the world’s great understatements. I first became aware of his skill when I heard the Cream hit “White Room”, which was a ground-breaker in that it had two lead solos — unheard of in any popular tune of the time. What was also ground-breaking was Clapton’s virtuosity, because (as I once explained to my son) while the solos now sound unremarkable, almost pedestrian, they were unlike anything else being played at the time. His playing was such that it spawned the various “Clapton Is God” graffiti on so many walls in Britain. My friend, the late Johnny Fourie was not only one of the jazz guitar greats, but was also for a couple of years the band leader at the famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. After having seen him play a late-night jam session there, Johnny later described Clapton to me as “a shy, skinny kid who played like his guitar was on fire.”
And he got better. Much better.
I’ve seen Clapton play live, once at Madison Square Garden (during his Cocaine period), and much later at the old Chicago Stadium where he played only his favorite blues songs. While he was good at MSG, he was sensational in Chicago, and anyone who knows anything about him will know that while rock music might have made him famous, it’s the blues which holds his heart.
Here’s (to my mind) one of the best examples of his blues prowess:
…and here’s something different he did a couple years ago:
Yeah, he can play the old jazz standards as well. Well, duh; he’s Eric Clapton.
Old age catches us all in its icy grip eventually, and not even “God” can escape it.