Eric Clapton Doc Takes Candid Look At His Life And Addiction Battle

By David Konow 09/26/17

The Clapton-approved documentary will debut on Showtime in February 2018.

Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton Photo via YouTube

Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars is a new documentary that not only looks at the singer-songwriter's incredible career as a musician, but also deals with his struggles with addiction, and the tragedy of losing his son Conor. It debuted a couple weeks ago at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The documentary was directed by Lili Fini Zanuck, who had previously worked with Clapton on the 1991 movie Rush, where two narcs go after a drug dealer (played by Gregg Allman) and become addicted themselves. (Clapton wrote the smash hit "Tears in Heaven" for the film’s soundtrack.)

According to the CBC, Zanuck got Clapton’s full cooperation for the documentary. “I was somewhat concerned that there may be an impression because we’d been friends for so long that I would whitewash something or Eric would say take it out," she told reporters during a press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). "None of that happened because of the trust that we have and the fact that he gave me the responsibility and didn’t second guess me.” (In fact, there’s archive footage in the movie’s trailer showing Clapton snorting what appears to be cocaine.)

According to Reuters, Clapton told reporters at TIFF, “To watch myself going through that was not easy.” He also joked, “Right up until the time I stopped drinking, everything I said was complete blather.”

Clapton’s struggle with addiction lasted for 20 years, and at one point he told NPR he was spending $16,000 a week on heroin. He would leave heroin behind in 1974 with the help of Dr. Meg Patterson, a Scottish surgeon who also tried helping Keith Moon, Keith Richards and Pete Townsend with their addictions. But then Clapton turned to alcohol, an addiction that nearly killed him before he got sober in 1987.

The documentary also goes into the greatest tragedy of Clapton’s life, the death of his four-year-old son Conor. He said he didn’t go back to drugs and alcohol when he lost Conor, telling told Rolling Stone that his recovery program “helped me tremendously. It was somewhere for me to go and talk about it. I may well have gone back to something or other if it hadn’t been for that.”

Giving back after he got sober, Clapton would also go on to found the Crossroads recovery center in Antigua. “It's a gift I've been given and the best way to honor it is to stay clean and sober to be able to do it as well as I can,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here today—I’d probably be dead—if I hadn’t gotten straight.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.