Music is a huge driving force in the lives of many all around the world. There's an ineffability attached to it and that will likely stand the test of time itself. Whenever we listen to music, we feel lost, heartbroken, or excited, among many other sensations. We sometimes look up to our favorite musicians and bands as heroes if we want to enter the music industry as a fellow band or solo artist.
I'm not trying to differentiate between the groups of people who should be considered heroes. That's truly not the focus here. However, men and women in the music industry, for example, become larger than life. These living legends achieve such an iconic stature through fame, fortune and fans. However, when they their legendary status begins to deteriorate, the mourning process might begin, but the remembrance barely starts.
Eric Clapton has been one of my musical heroes over the years. The man has had such deep roots with blues and rock & roll. He's excelled in this industry through and through with 23 studio albums, countless collaborations with other top talent across multiple genres of music, and a man who's been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame three times. If that's not impressive, then I don't know what is.
I'm reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Sandlot. When Benny was in his bedroom looking at one of his idols in Babe Ruth, The Great Bambino uttered some wisdom that should ring true with anyone on the face of the great planet. Ruth said, "Heroes will be remembered. Legends never die."
This rings so true to me, whether I'm a fan of Clapton's music or not. When I heard that Clapton suffering from nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy, making it extremely difficult for him to play the guitar, I was very sad to hear this news. I understand men and women die every single day. It doesn't make it any easier. Clapton, even at 71, has had an incredibly fulfilling life. I say this as I know him, but I don't. I merely make that statement due to what's been documented and the work I've had the pleasure of listening to all my life.
From the first time I heard "Sunshine of Your Love," to the intimate MTV UnPlugged version of "Layla," to "Worried Life Blues," "Riding with the King," and hundreds of others, there was that signature sound coming out of Clapton's Fender Stratocaster that has been often imitated, but never duplicated.
His roots go so deep that B.B. King, Albert King, Muddy Waters and even Buddy Holly are his greatest influences. I'm not trying to give a history lesson on one of the best guitarists of all-time, but it bears knowing what the man has accomplished over the decades since he's picked up the guitar. Clapton isn't a flashy guitarist. He lets his work do the talking. He doesn't have a lot of flair. He isn't a Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan. He reminds me a lot of Carlos Santana: a very soft-spoken individual who knows when to speak and when he does, others listen, yet we're listening, more often than not, when they're not talking anyway.
Clapton will be a lot like Prince when he leaves this world. I'm not saying Prince's death should be overshadowed by Clapton. This comparison merely highlights the effect both men have and had on music as a whole. While Prince lived in a bit of a reclusive fashion (not that there's anything wrong with that), Clapton has very much been in the public eye, especially when he's been so vocal about his battles with cocaine, alcohol, heroin, and prescription drugs.
It's no shock to anyone when Clapton speaks up about the pain from which he's been suffering, especially in making his 23rd studio album, "I Still Do." It bears repeating that fans like myself are sad to hear about this news, but it's understandable given his illustrious career. I'm not a doctor at all, but it sucks that I'm hearing commercials for procedures to help those suffering from peripheral neuropathy, and then it's reportedly incurable. I really hope that Clapton explores all of his options to prolong his life, but that comes from a music fan's perspective. However, I have the utmost respect for a man who chooses to live his life without feeling the need to live under a medical knife for the rest of his days with all the pain he has.
Eric Clapton will be a forever man. Take that for whatever meaning best suits you. He lived his life as a man sharing music with the world. He will forever be a man who shared his craft with others and marched to the beat of his own drum. He cannot be ignored and will not suffer from ill repute. He is a legend, always has been (at least in my lifetime) and always will be for as long as I continue to live.
As I mentioned earlier, Eric Clapton's music has that signature sound. It cannot be mistaken, and if you're not like me -- one who's been listening to his music while I write this entry -- please do yourself a favor when you get a few minutes. Listen to any one of his many albums. If you're a music fan, and a guitar fan, you will not be disappointed.
Don't forget what the Sultan of Swat said: Heroes will be remembered. Legends never die.