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Eric Clapton’s Latest Display of Antisemitism, Moral Bankruptcy, and Hypocrisy

Back in August, I posted how rocker Eric Clapton not only defended the despicable Roger Waters over allegations of antisemitism, but also revealed he almost withdrew his support for Robert F Kennedy Jr after the latter deleted his tweet praising Roger Waters over his stance on “Israel-Palestine” because he is “pro-Israel.” Then, from late last year until recently, social media users were posting how Clapton was playing a guitar with the colors of the “palestinian” flag.

But now Clapton has outdone himself when it comes to displaying his own antisemitism, moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy. In an interview with The Real Music Observer YouTube channel, he criticizes the Senate hearings into antisemitism on US college campuses, while stating that Israel is running the world (a clear antisemitic trope). At the same time, he fawns over Putin, Russia, and China – who he claims are all unfairly demonized – while expressing the desire to play there with his “brother” Roger Waters:

There is little doubt in my mind that Clapton is a raging antisemite, much like “brother” Roger. Besides the clear antisemitic trope, his love of human rights violators Russia and China and his characterization of them as “‘”unfairly attacked” reveals a great deal about the double standards by which he judges the world’s only Jewish state. Heck, he even shows tacit support for Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, which is not nearly as justified as Israel’s actions in Gaza now.

If only Clapton took his own advice when it comes to Russia and China and actually visited Israel in order to get an accurate picture of the situation – not that I think it would make a difference to someone with this much prejudice against Jews.

And probably others, mind you.

In the summer of 1976, Dave Wakeling thought he knew Clapton, too. Wakeling, who’d go on to found the English Beat, one of the U.K.’s pioneering ska bands, was 20 that year, and such a big Clapton fan that he’d once hitchhiked from his Birmingham home to London to see Clapton’s band Blind Faith in Hyde Park. 

But when he saw Clapton at the Odeon theater in Birmingham in August 1976, Wakeling was gob-smacked. A clearly inebriated Clapton, who unlike most of his rock brethren hadn’t weighed in on topics like the Vietnam War, began grousing about immigration. The concert was neither filmed nor recorded, but based on published accounts at the time (and Wakeling’s recollection), Clapton began making vile, racist comments from the stage. In remarks he has never denied, he talked about how the influx of immigrants in the U.K. would result in the country “being a colony within 10 years.” He also went on an extended jag about how “foreigners” should leave Great Britain: “Get the wogs out . . . get the coons out.” (Wog, shorthand for golliwog, was a slur against dark-skinned nonwhites.) 

“As it went on, it was like, ‘Is this a joke?’ ” Wakeling recalls. “And then it became obvious that it wasn’t. . . . It started to form a sort of murmur throughout the crowd. He kept talking, and the murmurings started to get louder: ‘What did he fucking say again?’ . . . We all got into the foyer after the concert, and it was as loud as the concert: ‘What is he fucking doing? What a cunt!’ ” 

When Clapton voiced support onstage for the conservative British flamethrower and fascist Enoch Powell, a prominent anti-immigration politician who had given his polarizing “rivers of blood” speech on the topic in Birmingham in 1968, Wakeling was particularly offended. Thanks to white and black workers toiling together in its factories, Wakeling had sensed that Birmingham had become more integrated in recent years.

Also in the crowd was author Caryl Phillips, then a high school student and admirer of Clapton’s work, especially his immersion in reggae and blues. “Clapton was to me somebody who represented the kind of crossover figure who was kind of like me in the other direction – me being a Black kid who actually liked white music, and he a white guy who actually liked Black music,” Phillips says. But like so many at the Odeon, Phillips was taken aback at Clapton’s tirades. “He said a few things about they should go back to where they came from and so on, then he’d play a couple of songs,” he recalls. “He was like a drunk who would remember that he’d been talking about something and then pick it up again a couple of songs later. He was one of the last people you expected to stand up there and speak in this way. It hung like a toxic cloud over the whole evening.” As one of the few Black people in the crowd, Phillips says he also felt “all eyes were kind of upon me, and then swiveled way from me.”

Clapton was also in awe of Jimi Hendrix’s skills and is said to have been devastated when Hendrix died. But in an 1968 interview with Rolling Stone, Clapton referred to Hendrix with a derogatory term that was also hipster slang at the time. But maybe even more troubling was how he displayed a predilection for some racial stereotypes: “When he first came to England, you know English people have a very big thing towards a spade. They really love that magic thing, the sexual thing. They all fall for that sort of thing. Everybody and his brother in England still sort of think that spades have big dicks. And Jimi came over and exploited that to the limit, the fucking T. Everybody fell for it. I fell for it. Shit.”

What remains galling for people like Wakeling and Saunders is not only the racist remarks, but the way Clapton handled his response to them. After his onstage tirade was reported in the U.K. press, Clapton sent a handwritten letter to the British music newspaper Sounds, apologizing “to all the foreigners in Birm. . . . It’s just that (as usual) I’d had a few before I went on and one foreigner had pinched my missuss’ bum and I proceeded to lose my bottle.” (He claimed, in part, that a rich Saudi had leered at his then-partner Pattie Boyd.) But he also added, in what seemed like an endorsement of a white supremacist, “I think that Enoch is the only politician mad enough to run this country.” In an interview with that same publication, he downplayed the Birmingham rant yet again: “I thought it was quite funny actually,” comparing the incident to a Monty Python skit. (Phillips disagrees: “This wasn’t some stumbling buffoon in the tradition of Monty Python. This was incendiary stuff he was saying.”)

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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