In 1977, Eric Clapton released a version of the J.J. Cale song “Cocaine.” At the time, Clapton was consuming copious amounts of cocaine — and alcohol — and had only recently kicked a heroin habit.
Now 62, the legendary guitarist looks back and wonders how he survived his decades of drug and alcohol addiction. Sober for 20 years, Clapton is the father of three young daughters, ages 6, 4 and 2.
Clapton writes about his many years of addiction in his new autobiography, Clapton. He calculates that he was spending the current equivalent of 8,000 pounds — about $16,000 — a week on heroin.
Sobriety brought its own challenges.
Making music without drugs and alcohol was very difficult initially — everything sounded so loud and rough to him — as was sex.
“It was funny because both [of] those things were things that I took for granted. And yet, without alcohol, both of them became very, very difficult and unmanageable,” Clapton says.
He says that his earliest experiences with women were always fueled by alcohol.
“And so when you took it away, I just didn’t know what to do and actually was, for quite a while, physically impotent. I was terrified. I would be paralyzed with fear. And I think, musically, it was the same,” he says.
Despite his age, Clapton says he plans to continue touring (“It’s something I will ways need”), although the days of huge tours are probably behind him.
“I don’t think those big world tours are possible for me anymore, nor are they desirable, because there’s somewhere else I’d rather be — with my kids and my wife. The home life has a lot of power for me now, and it’s where I get most of my satisfaction,” Clapton says.