Eric Clapton has been a rock legend for longer than I have been alive. He’s an icon in the music industry who has earned respect and admiration from millions over his career. But he’s been making headlines this year for other reasons.
Since having a severe negative reaction to the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this year, he’s become an outspoken opponent of the COVID vaccines. He has promised not to perform in venues with vaccine mandates, collaborated with Van Morrison on some anti-vaccine/anti-lockdowns songs, and even bankrolled an anti-vaccine rock group.
And his recent outspokenness as a vaccine skeptic has many of the cultural gatekeepers looking to have him canceled. Rolling Stone magazine has even run a lengthy hit piece on Clapton that blasts his vaccine skepticism.
“Clapton recently embarked on a U.S. tour booked in red states despite surging transmission numbers and death rates — and at venues that largely don’t require proof of vaccination,” David Browne of Rolling Stone writes with horror. “In the process, this Sixties icon, who embraced the sex, drugs, and rock & roll lifestyle as much as anyone in his generation, has drawn praise from conservative pundits.”
Browne added that Clapton even had the audacity to pose for a backstage photo with “anti-vax-mandate Gov. Greg Abbott,” which was a dealbreaker for many Clapton fans who otherwise claim the virtue of tolerance.
“In what may be among the final acts of his career, Clapton risked his reputation and part of his devoted fan base when he doubled down on his views,” Browne continued, before acknowledging that many fellow musicians have been critical of Clapton’s outspokenness on the vaccines.
“It’s a shame that this is the way that a lot of young Rolling Stone readers are going to read about him for the first time,” says Bill Oakes, who ran Clapton’s label in the 1970s. “He is one of the greats, and this is how he makes the headlines in his dotage.”
It must be tough for young Rolling Stone readers to learn about a rock legend who isn’t afraid to speak his mind against the rowdy mob of COVID zealots. So naturally, in order to ensure that readers don’t dare get inspired by Clapton’s anti-vaccine mandate and anti-lockdown views, David Browne devotes most of his article to reexamining decades-old allegations of racism for good measure.
“But the current controversy is prompting a fresh examination of Clapton’s past behavior, which includes jarringly racist statements he made in the early part of his career,” Browne writes. “How did we get from admiration and empathy to bewilderment and even a feeling of betrayal?”
According to the article, Clapton “began grousing about immigration” during a concert at the Odeon theater in Birmingham in August 1976, and, according to one man’s recollection, “Clapton began making vile, racist comments from the stage.” Browne also noted that “in [a] 1968 interview with Rolling Stone, Clapton referred to Hendrix with a derogatory term that was also hipster slang at the time.” Lost on Browne was the fact that Rolling Stone published the offending words without hesitation or controversy.
When Browne eventually segues back to Clapton’s vaccine hesitancy, his 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. Clapton’s actual crimes, of course, are his current views on vaccines and COVID lockdowns. He sounds like a conservative! He sounds pro-liberty! He thinks people should be trusted with their own medical decisions instead of the government making them for us! The horror!
“How do we reconcile some of his views with his music?” Browne asks.
Browne never says so, but suggesting that Clapton is a racist on flimsy, decades-old proof makes it obvious that his way of “reconciling” Clapton’s views on the COVID vaccine and lockdowns is to just cancel him.