In talking about Ginger Baker, his band mate in both Cream and in Blind Faith, Eric Clapton ends up going in depth about his own battles with addiction.
Of course, Clapton was among a number of music legends interviewed for the new documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, available this week on iTunes. What emerges in the film is a portrait of this furiously talented, but deeply troubled personality.
Director Jay Bulger talks to members of Baker’s family, as well as fellow drummers like Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, Neil Peart of Rush, Simon Kirke of Free and Bad Company, Lars Ulrich of Metallica and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, among others.
He also interviewed a number of Baker’s closest musical collaborators, like Cream’s Jack Bruce, Blind Faith’s Steve Winwood, and Clapton — who was in both of those groups with Baker.
Bulger recently released some exclusive outtakes from the Clapton talk, via Radio.com, and the guitarist — in discussing Baker’s struggles with addiction — made some very revealing comments about his own recovery experience.
Clapton says, ultimately, he’d never have survived to make albums like the forthcoming Old Sock if he had cleaned up.
“What is Ginger without the music?,” Clapton asks. “I think Ginger is an incredible human being with fantastic potential — and his desire to be ‘locked into’ the music keeps him in chaos. And I had the same thing, I thought that if I stopped drinking and I stopped using drugs … I would not be able to play anymore. In other words, those were things that were necessary for inspiration. But it was a shortcut. My experience now tells me in a long time of being in recovery, that I can be a good musician with or without that philosophy.”
During the depths of his chemical dependency, he actually passed out on stage during 1971′s massive benefit Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden. Later in the decade, having finally kicked heroin, Clapton turned to alcohol before finally cleaning up.
“It’s a gift that I’ve been given,” Clapton adds, “and the best way to honor it is to stay clean and sober to be able to do it as well as I can. I wouldn’t be here today — I’d probably be dead — if I hadn’t gotten straight.”