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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview with Eric Clapton
Aired October 20, 2007 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a rare hour with music legend Eric Clapton. Addiction...
KING: ...heartbreak, survival -- all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE a return visit with Eric Clapton, the Grammy winner 18 times over. He's the only three-time inductee into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. He's the author of a great new book, "Clapton: The Autobiography." There you see its cover. And a new CD, simultaneously, "Complete Clapton" -- a career spanning retrospective of the music of the guitarist known as "Slow Hand."
Why the -- why, Eric, the autobiography now?
ERIC CLAPTON, GUITAR PLAYER: Before my memory completely fails me
CLAPTON: I don't think it will be long before all of this will just be like a blur, you know?
KING: That was part of it?
Get it down now.
CLAPTON: Part of it, yes. I was kind of persuaded by a friend. And I started out as a sort of ghost writing enterprise and then I thought -- when I looked at it, I thought, well, I think I can do a better job. So I kind of consigned him to research duties and I took over writing.
KING: Did you know it was going to be all - everything hung out, you were going to lay it all out?
CLAPTON: Well, I couldn't see any other way to do it. I mean - and I think I needed to get -- set the record straight on just how I came to be where I am now, really, I mean -- and I've also, as well as losing my memory, I thought there was something - it was like a message I can carry, too, you know, that you can actually come through all that kind of stuff and still have a good life.
KING: Was it hard to do?
CLAPTON: The writing?
CLAPTON: No, because I always enjoyed writing. At school I liked - I did well in English. So it was nice to get back in touch with my education like that.
KING: So was it hard to emotionally lay it out?
CLAPTON: Yes. In some parts. It was difficult to visit some of those trickier areas.
KING: I would imagine.
CLAPTON: Yes. Yes, it was.
KING: How did you get through it?
CLAPTON: I think the difficult part is actually describing emotions, actually, you know, literally figuring out how to put that into words without it being mawkish or sentimental. So that was - I mean sometimes I had to go over and rewrite.
KING: Is it easier to do that in music?
CLAPTON: I think it is. I think, actually, words are tricky, you know, that music -- music doesn't lie. Words can be -- can manipulate, you know?
KING: Some of your songs, like "Layla" and "Tears in Heaven," very personal.
Is that easy to open up, say, to write a "Layla" as a piece of music...
CLAPTON: Well, (INAUDIBLE) sat down (INAUDIBLE)...
KING: ...than as a...
CLAPTON: "Layla," for instance, it was disguised, as well, because the song was written about someone with another identity. So I was already kind of removing myself from being direct about that. And that made it easier in a way.
KING: With all you've been through -- and we'll get into a lot of it, because you write a lot about it -- you've been addicted to drugs and alcohol, survived suicide attempts.
Do you think you're lucky, lucky to be alive?
CLAPTON: I don't know if I believe in luck. I think I'm very fortunate. There may be - if there is such a thing as luck, in being at the right place at the right time. But I suppose I've had to believe, in the end, that I was brought through it all for a purpose. That's what I choose to -- to think.
KING: How have you stayed 20 years sober?
CLAPTON: Without breaking my anonymity, I'd just say that I go -- I go to 12 step meetings and help other people.
KING: And that did it for you?
CLAPTON: I mean that's done it for me, yes. And, also, trying to give back what I've been given, too, which is part of why I wrote the book.
KING: It amazes me, even after 20 years, you still go to the meetings, right?
KING: In other words, you don't say to yourself, I've got it down, I don't have to go?
CLAPTON: That would be a foolish thing to assume, I think. I don't really - I wouldn't want to take the risk, you know?
KING: You mean you're always an addict?
CLAPTON: I think so, yes.
KING: The friendship with George Harrison -- you write about that in the book.
How did that begin?
CLAPTON: We met when I was in the Yardbirds. And they were doing a Christmas show in Hammersmith. And I was in the Yardbirds and we were the bottom of the bill. And they were very, very, very gregarious guys. They would come around and introduce themselves when they came. George -- we talked about guitar strings and guitars and music and became friends.
KING: Were they easy to open for?
Some acts are difficult to open for.
CLAPTON: Well, it's a different thing, I mean, because they were playing to - it was a teeny bop thing. That was my first experience of, you know, screaming girls in the audience. I really -- I didn't think it was a very comfortable situation. I'm not sure if they did, either. But that's what they got, you know?
KING: And you became obsessed with George's wife, Pattie Boyd?
CLAPTON: Bit by bit, yes, it turned into an obsession.
KING: Explain an obsession.
CLAPTON: An obsession is where something will not leave your mind. (LAUGHTER) I mean when I could - with all of the practicalities of the situation, the fact that she was my close friend's wife and it shouldn't really be allowed - I shouldn't allow myself to think about it, it just wouldn't leave my mind. And we're talking about a long period of time, year after year.
KING: Wait a minute.
So every time you try not to think about it, you think about it?
CLAPTON: It could come back in. Yes, I'd wake up in the morning, there it is.
KING: So you finally confronted it, right?
CLAPTON: Yes. But not until -- I hasten to say, I thought it was an appropriate thing to do. I mean, it looked to me like the marriage -- their marriage was failing. So I thought, well, what have I got to loose?
KING: And George let it be appropriate, didn't he?
CLAPTON: Yes, I think so.
KING: He didn't say, what are you crazy or...
CLAPTON: On the face of it. I mean, that's the one thing that I think none of us have ever really been sure of, because George was - like his record label -- was a dark horse. And he didn't always tell you exactly what he was thinking. So it may have been that it hurt him more than he let on, you know.
KING: Was it hard for you to do, to tell a man, I'm in love with your wife?
CLAPTON: I had no choice. I had no choice. And I think he knew anyway. I mean, it was kind -- it was fairly obvious, you know?
We weren't -- we weren't that discreet. And I think his - well, I remember his response was, well, I'll swap her for the girl -- your girlfriend, you know.
CLAPTON: And that may have been the time, you know, the period of time that we were in. It was very kind of cavalier.
KING: Eric, she was an obsession before you were intimate with her?
CLAPTON: Oh, yes. Yes. Yes.
KING: What was the intimacy finally like then?
CLAPTON: Yes. Yes.
KING: Did it equal the obsession? CLAPTON: I think so, yes. I think so. But what we have to remember there is that as that was going along, so my addiction was growing.
CLAPTON: I was becoming - I was getting hooked on everything. I was drinking. And so I was getting number. So, in a way, it was sort of canceling itself out. And I think it was in part and parcel with that, you know, it was like I was trying to kill -- kill it at the same time.
KING: How did that affect your playing?
CLAPTON: Oh, it imbued it with quite a lot of energy, I think.
CLAPTON: It was -- well, I mean, you know, that's -- we're talking about the album, the "Layla" album was written about my intentions and my feelings about her long before I had ever said anything to her, really. So ...
KING: Did she know it was about her?
CLAPTON: Yes. I think so. Well, I told her in the end.
KING: Did the alcohol and the drugs affect your playing?
KING: For the bad or for the good?
CLAPTON: Well, I think it's - it's also -- I mean because my experience of some drugs was that they sort of short-circuited you -- short-circuited you to a, or me, to a place of creativity which I would have had to normally work much harder to get to. So I was sort of shortcutting systems. And, in a way, that was good. But the price was very high.
KING: That was something to come through, then?
KING: And she eventually leaves George for you, right?
CLAPTON: Eventually, yes. Mid-'70s. That's right.
KING: Now, she wrote her own autobiography bearing the same title as one of your songs, "Wonderful Tonight." In it she says you told her you'd begin using heroin if she wouldn't leave George for you. In other words, you made a threat of this obsession.
CLAPTON: That's right. Yes.
KING: You're a tough guy, right? CLAPTON: No.
It was a little bit silly, don't you think?
I mean, it was a childish thing to do. And the truth was, as I said in my book, I was already strung out anyway. So it was a bit of a - it was kind of childish manipulation. It didn't work anyway. It made no difference.
KING: No, it didn't.
CLAPTON: No, it didn't work.
KING: When it wore off, did you look back and say, what was I thinking, or not?
CLAPTON: When what wore off?
KING: When the love for her wore off?
CLAPTON: No. I think, in a sense, I think if all those other mitigating things hadn't been involved -- if you had removed the drugs and the drink from the equation, if you had removed George as my best friend and her husband from the equation, maybe we would have stood a chance. But there was just too much weight brought to bear.
KING: Lots coming up with Eric Clapton.
As we said, this is a brilliant new autobiography. "Clapton: The Autobiography" is the title. And "The Complete Clapton" is the new CD with it.
Coming up, the tragic death of his young son, Conor, and much more in this special hour with a legend -- the one and only Eric Clapton, when LARRY KING LIVE returns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no, not quite. Just an example of aggression in your music.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Eric Clapton. The autobiography -- great cover, great book -- has been written. And a matching CD with the same cover. Why did you choose the guitar?
CLAPTON: To play?
CLAPTON: Well, it was - I think it was the one that lined up with the music I liked listening to. I mean, I started trying to play other instruments. I've tried to play the violin. I've tried to play trumpet. I've tried to play all kinds -- I mean I thought about all these instruments -- piano, too. But the guitar, when you think about it, is the most versatile, really. I mean you can pick it up and take it with you wherever you go.
KING: Do you play all kinds of guitar?
CLAPTON: I play electric and acoustic. Really, that's it.
KING: Write your own music?
CLAPTON: Now and then.
KING: Now and then?
CLAPTON: Now and then.
KING: All right. This must have been the hardest part to write in the book, about Conor. She was born to your girlfriend, Lori, while you were still married to Patti.
How did that affect you?
I mean you were living two lives.
CLAPTON: More than two, I think. I mean, I think I was living a fantasy life in my own head. I was living a life with Pattie. I was living a life with Lori. I mean - and all of it, coupled with the denial that I would need to carry on a fairly comprehensive drinking career. So it was -- it was a mess.
KING: The drinking career - you call it a career -- was important to you?
CLAPTON: Well, it was a full time job.
Well, that's a career, isn't it?
KING: All right, Conor is born. He lives in New York, right?
CLAPTON: He lived in Milan and then came to visit New York. He died in New York, unfortunately.
KING: I know.
The day of that -- where were you when he died?
CLAPTON: I was just...
KING: He was what, four?
CLAPTON: He was four years old. And we had been to the circus the night before out on Long Island. And I was staying in a hotel not far from where he was staying.
KING: You weren't living with his mother?
CLAPTON: No. She was already - I mean we had sort of split up. And she was staying with her boyfriend at the time. And she had already had another child, I think, at that time. And I got her on the phone in the morning saying that he had fallen from a window and that he was dead and ...
KING: On the phone?
CLAPTON: On the phone.
KING: She said it to you?
CLAPTON: Yes. Because I was set to go around and pick him up for lunch.
KING: Where was she calling from, the hospital or?
CLAPTON: From where they were staying, a place called the Galleria on 57th Street.
KING: Did you rush right there?
CLAPTON: It's funny, you know, I didn't. I didn't rush at all. I slowed down. It was an interesting thing. I was talking to a friend of mine who had a similar experience and we -- and it was a weird phenomenon that when -- when the news was brought to us, through Lori in my case on the phone, it was almost as if I was trying to stop time. So I put the phone down. And I remember very, very slowly walking from where I was staying to where they were, which was only -- it wasn't far, about five blocks or so -- and kind of going over it in my mind, thinking this hasn't happened, almost like I didn't - I was trying to freeze time. And when I got there, I -- when I got close by, I saw paramedics and police cars and things. And I thought this - this looks like it's true.
KING: Do we know the circumstances, how he fell?
CLAPTON: The inquest said that it was a misadventure, that, in fact, that it was an accident, that someone was cleaning the window in the apartment he was staying in, which was very high up, on the 50th floor or something. And the window cantilevered. Somehow you could open this whole window from floor to ceiling. And I don't know if it cantilevered that way or -- vertically or horizontally. I have never seen it in the flesh. I never actually had the ...
KING: You never saw the room?
CLAPTON: I never went into the room. I never had the nerve to go into the room.
KING: Wasn't there maybe a mistake and some question that this could have been safer?
CLAPTON: Yes. Yes. In fact, they asked me not long afterwards - the New York Council asked me to do a safety broadcast. And I did. I did a thing on TV saying that this kind of thing must be put a stop to, that there should be some kind of guardrail or something. The net result was he fell from the window.
KING: What do you think - what was the effect of the death on you?
CLAPTON: Well the effect is - there's a lot of question of what the effect is.
KING: Still is.
CLAPTON: That I have part of my -- part of my mind is like a - I mean, most of my life is clear and open today, as a result of being in recovery and being, you know, a happy -- a happy recovering man. But there is that part of my life which is still not completely clear. But, you know, I think that's something that I'll grieve as long as I live. And I mean I look at pictures of him and it's almost as if I'm looking at someone else's life, like it's - and there's still an element of denial in it for me, I think, that I haven't really accepted.
KING: Some people I know who, when they've lost a child, lose their faith.
KING: Did you have faith to lose?
CLAPTON: Yes. I had faith, but I didn't lose it. And I still have the same faith.
KING: Why didn't you lose it?
CLAPTON: Huh -- a few things happened shortly thereafter which gave me reason to believe that there is a purpose in all of this. And one of them was that I was talking at a meeting for people in recovery and a woman came up to me. And I was describing this and said that in fact, you know, I never thought about picking up a drink or taking any drugs in result. I mean, it never occurred to me, for some reason -- whatever reason, which I believe had something to do with this thing we're talking about.
And this woman came up to me and said, what you said to me today, what I heard you say today took away my last excuse for having a drink.
And I said, what do you mean?
And she said, well, because - and I talked about this in the book. She said I had held this one thing in place so that if anything happened to my kids, for instance, I'd have a legitimate reason to go out and get drunk, and you took that away. And I thought, well, there you are. There's some point in all of this.
So in actual fact, you know -- and this happened when I was about three years sober. And it gave me something. It gave me something. So as much as something was taken away from me, something was given to me, too.
KING: But you miss him all the time?
CLAPTON: I miss him all the time.
KING: As we go to break, Eric wrote a song about Conor -- "Tears in Heaven."
KING: We're back with Eric Clapton. His autobiography just published.
By the way, are you still amazed at all you've accomplished professionally?
CLAPTON: It seems like several lives to me. (LAUGHTER). I mean the thing about that book, when I've looked at it, I realized there's sort of three different people in there almost. There's me as a kid, there's me as a drunk, there's me as a recovered person. And that's not really even taking on board all the things I've done in my musical life, you know?
KING: You were a -- were you a natural musician?
By that I mean did you take to it?
CLAPTON: Well, I think part of my gift, or if I have one, is that I love listening. I mean, even if I didn't - if something happens, God forbid, that I couldn't play anymore, I would still love listening to music as much as anything.
KING: Can you explain maybe the hardest thing to explain -- addiction.
Why does someone intelligent, successful, become a victim of something?
CLAPTON: I think it's a disease. I think -- the thing that you managed to do here, a long time ago, was to put it, you know, in the medical dictionary as a disease. The American Medical Association calls it -- labels it a disease. We still don't. In Europe it's not. It's still a moral dilemma. You know, it's still...
CLAPTON: Yes. It still has quite a lot of stigma attached.
KING: I didn't know that.
CLAPTON: Mm-hmm. I think one day it might change but it's not changed yet.
But I mean -- and I think with all the facts about it, when you take two alcoholics and compare them, they usually have really pretty similar symptoms, you know. There are symptoms, which makes it just the same as any other disease.
KING: Were you addicted as soon as you started drinking?
CLAPTON: Pretty much, yes.
CLAPTON: I mean I had an addictive nature and it was there before. It was there in sugar. I mean, I was hooked on sugar from day one as a kid.
KING: Did you smoke?
CLAPTON: I did. I did. I stopped about 15 years ago.
KING: What about the song "Cocaine?"
What were you thinking?
Were you deeply in the drug when you wrote it?
CLAPTON: I was doing it, but I didn't write that. J.J. -- J.J. Cale wrote that song.
KING: For you?
CLAPTON: I think - when I asked him about this, it's -- he doesn't - he's never really given me a straight answer about, J.J., about whether it's pro or -- whether it's for or against. I think his way of -- his way of writing songs, as far as I can see, which makes -- which I think is a unique thing -- is he writes just observations. That's just an observational song.
KING: In the book you write, "Before my recovery began I had found my God in music and the arts."
Where do you find your God now?
CLAPTON: I find him at the bottom of my bed, usually. In the morning I get down on my knees and pray and at night... KING: You do?
CLAPTON: I do, yes. Yes. Yes. I've done that for a long time now. So I talk to him in the morning and I (INAUDIBLE).
KING: So you believe someone -
CLAPTON: ...him or her or whatever.
KING: ...or something is listening?
CLAPTON: Something or someone - yes. I have no - it's a complete abstract thing, but I believe that they are listening, yes. It's been my experience that most of the things I pray for eventually come my way.
KING: And you pray for things?
CLAPTON: I pray for knowledge, really, of what I'm supposed to be doing on any given day, and for the ability to stay sober.
KING: Are you angry that He or She let Conor go away?
CLAPTON: Of course, yes. Of course. Well, I mean, I don't -- I still don't know what the purpose of that was. But that's not necessarily mine to know. I mean, that's my acceptance of it.
KING: Hard, though, isn't it?
Isn't that hard?
CLAPTON: Very, very hard. No one said it was supposed to be easy but ...
KING: Is it harder for the celebrity to stay clean, do you think?
CLAPTON: I think there are elements of fame that can be very destructive. I mean, the thing with paparazzi -- being hounded from the minute you walk out of your door or come out of a restaurant. And there is that. I mean that -- that is, I find, a very disturbing phenomenon.
KING: And it makes it harder.
CLAPTON: It can provoke all kinds of strange - I mean, very violent emotions. And it's very disturbing spiritually, I think.
KING: An incredible career. The only three time inductee into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and a Grammy winner -- wait, what was it like being in the movie "The Band?"
CLAPTON: The movie what -- which? "The Last Waltz?"
KING: Yes. "The Band."
CLAPTON: Oh, that was great, yes. That was great. Well, I mean Robbie and I go back a long way. Robbie Robertson and I are good friends and we sort of - we've been collaborating on things for a long time.
KING: Have you done more films?
CLAPTON: I really don't - oh, I think -- I'm not very good at taking direction. When you're working on a movie, there's a lot of people coming down, you know, stuff comes down from the head office, you know what I mean?
There's more to come with Eric Clapton. As we go to break, Eric with the Band in "The Last Waltz."
Don't go away.
(VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LAST WALTZ")
KING: We're back with the incredible Eric Clapton. The autobiography just published. Tell me about this Crossroads Center in Antigua. What is that?
CLAPTON: It's a rehab. It's a rehab --
KING: It's yours?
CLAPTON: It's owned by a charity, really. I built it, but I never really wanted to think of it as mine. Now, in fact, I wanted to distance myself from it as soon as I could so that it would have its own identity. But I built it.
KING: Have you been there a lot?
CLAPTON: I usually get there once or twice a year if I can and spend some time there.
KING: Did Britney Spears spend time there?
CLAPTON: That's not for me to divulge. I mean I probably know as much as you so I can't confirm it, but it would be nice if she was. I think it's a good place.
KING: What makes it special?
CLAPTON: Well, it's a beautiful part of the world. It has a very, very solid program, a good staff. I mean, it's one place you can go and really kind of focus on getting straight. And there's no distraction there and it's run on the 12 step principles, so.
KING: And Antigua is a beautiful place.
CLAPTON: It is a great place.
KING: You're a very unusual guy.
CLAPTON: I'm glad you think so.
KING: Your current wife, Melia, when you started dating you were actually dating her, and another lady simultaneously. The three of you going out together. How did that work out? How did you get that deal?
CLAPTON: Well, I mean, I'm an old guy. It wasn't to me, on the face of it, it wasn't ever going to be a serious issue. I mean, just these young girls, and I thought, well this, I'm having the time of my life.
I mean, I have learned in the last years how to have fun, you know? I mean, I was never a fun guy until maybe 10 years ago.
KING: No, you were serious?
CLAPTON: I was just a miserable kind of (INAUDIBLE), yes. I really think I was a kind of -- too serious. And a lot of time, you know, just down. But, you know, thanks to being sober and learning to look at life a little differently, a few people advised to go out and just have fun,
You know, when you go out, take a girl out, you don't think about getting married to her straightaway. You know, that was always my thing was take it to the end conclusion, you know.
KING: Were you happy when you were playing?
CLAPTON: Yes, of course.
KING: That was fun.
CLAPTON: And I don't think you can call it happy.
KING: Fun, did you enjoy it?
CLAPTON: I enjoyed, but I know if I was happy, because at the same time -- especially when I was drinking or in early recovery, I was so critical of myself that it was painful, you know.
CLAPTON: Yes, yes.
KING: Very self critical?
CLAPTON: Very self critical.
CLAPTON: Perfectionism. You nailed it.
KING: Would you do a cut over and over again when you recorded?
CLAPTON: Over and over again, or just not even bother, or just give up.
KING: That must have made you difficult to deal with.
CLAPTON: Very difficult.
KING: For engineers and recording people?
CLAPTON: Yes. Yes, not a lot of fun being around me, Larry. Maybe it is better now, but --
KING: But it is still the same way?
CLAPTON: No, no. It is much better now.
KING: How does a global rock star meet and fall in love with a girl from Columbus, Ohio?
CLAPTON: I don't know. I think this is all a thing about prayer, you know, when I said that, you know, usually -- some of the things that I have asked for. I mean, it's not that I was praying for love or -- but I mean, I think that these just -- these things have been given to me just because I'm kind of in the right place at the right time. I don't know.
I mean, I finally made a good choice, thank God.
KING: How many times in your life have you been in love, do you think?
CLAPTON: Not often. Not often. In lust, maybe.
CLAPTON: I don't even know what love -- I'm still not sure if I know what love is.
KING: I don't -- do we know? What is it?
CLAPTON: I think it is action is what it is. It is a doing thing. It is when -- an act of love is when you do something for somebody when you really don't feel like doing it. I think that's it.
KING: Yes, that -- you want to go where?
KING: Your first daughter with Melia, Julie Rose, how did it feel to be father all over again at age 56? CLAPTON: Fantastic. I mean, it was a great moment in my life, very, very -- I mean, you know, I love my oldest daughter, too. I love all my kids, but Julie is -- there is something special about Julie. And -- she --
KING: What is it?
CLAPTON: I don't know, it is very difficult to describe it. She is the one, when I leave home, she bursts into tears. I mean, it used to be my wife did that. She is not -- she doesn't mind it quite so much. But my -- Julie has a real hard time letting me leave the door.
KING: Were you present at the birth?
KING: There is no bigger thrill than that.
CLAPTON: That is fantastic, yes. She was born in Columbus.
KING: We'll be right back with the incredible Eric Clapton. Don't go away.
KING: We are back with Eric Clapton. Back to "Tears in Heaven" again. When you recorded that, was the intention not to bring it out?
CLAPTON: Yes. Yes, it was -- I mean, getting back to being serious, it was a serious song, posing a question.
Because, you know, from as far back as I remember, people had been leaving my life and -- or, you know, I was saying goodbye to people that were close to me. And I had never really figured out what we were supposed to do with that one -- what I was supposed to do with that, whether -- you know, what they teach us in church and what religion talks about was a reality? Whether we just become energy, what is it all about?
So I mean, it was a question, you know, will I see you again?
KING: So if it wasn't going to come out, did you make it available to the listening public?
CLAPTON: It wasn't ever supposed to be published, or recorded or anything. It was a friend of mine called Lili Zanuck who was very...
KING: I know Lili.
CLAPTON: Yes. She is a great friend of mine and a lovely lady. And she persuaded me. I was working on a movie for her and she --
KING: She makes hit movies. CLAPTON: She makes great movies. And I did the score for one of these films called "Rush." And I played her the song, because it was just after Conor died. It was the first thing I did after he died, was to work on this film. And she said, you have to release that. You have to record.
And her argument was because it will help somebody. I mean -- and I had forgotten that. I had forgotten that that is really what --
KING: Do you still play it?
CLAPTON: I don't, actually, I don't. Because I don't think it is appropriate anymore.
KING: Why not?
CLAPTON: I don't know. I haven't really thought about it. I have tried to put it in a couple of shows and I think because the feelings aren't fresh, it doesn't feel right.
KING: Going back in your life, your mom was 15 when she got pregnant by a Canadian serviceman in Shipley, England, at the end of the World War II. You were raised by your grandparents who you thought were your parents. When did you find out and what was that like?
CLAPTON: I think I found out when I was around seven or eight. I think in a way I was lucky to find out when I did, because I -- well, that was difficult and my life kind took a weird couple of turns. You know, I became very, very introspective and resentful, as a young teenager. But I did manage to move through it.
KING: What about not knowing your father?
CLAPTON: Well, I grew up with some pretty good alpha males in the family. I had a great-grandfather. I mean, a very good grandfather, who taught me a lot of the ethics that I kind of live my life by today. And my uncles -- so I didn't miss -- I had good men. I didn't, obviously, I didn't have a direct relationship and I'm sad about that. But I didn't have anything to compare it to. I learned it that way.
KING: Yes. Any musicians in the family?
CLAPTON: Everybody played.
KING: They all played?
CLAPTON: They all played. Yes
KING: Any professionally?
CLAPTON: Not professionally, no, no.
KING: Your song, "My Father's Eyes" links your son Conor's death to the mystery surrounding the life of your father. In it you describe the parallel between looking into the eyes of your son, and seeing the eyes of your father. Tough to write?
CLAPTON: Yes. Yes. But necessary.
KING: How did you get the idea?
CLAPTON: And necessary. But, you know, it was a reflection really on -- I mean, after Conor died, I took myself out of circulation for about a year, until I did that movie for Lili. I was really in Antigua. I stayed in Antigua on my own with a guitar. And the guitar never left my hands.
And I found I was reflecting a lot on the fact that the closest thing I had ever had to a direct relationship with a male member of my bloodline was with my son. And the way, that had probably sort of reflected some of what it would have been like to have a relationship with my father.
So I need to --
CLAPTON: I really needed to examine that, or just sing about it.
KING: We have an e-mail question from Linda in Toronto, Ontario: "It seems you have been doing a lot of touring lately. How do you balance your family life with that?"
CLAPTON: I take them with me when I can, or I base out of -- they go -- I mean, this last tour I did, where I went 'round the world. We spent a lot of time in America. And they moved back to Columbus. And the kids went to school in Columbus.
KING: Next, this incredible musician says he is nearly deaf, but he will not wear hearing aid, and we will find out why when we come back.
KING: Donald Trump Monday night.
Our guest Eric Clapton, the book is "Clapton: The Autobiography." And at the same time, simultaneous, the CD "Clapton: The Complete Clapton" also just released, with 36 of his greatest hits.
You are deaf?
CLAPTON: Partially. I'm not sure which ear. One ear is almost gone. Just loud, loud music.
KING: Too much of it.
CLAPTON: Too much of it.
KING: All right. George Harrison's death in 2001, how did that impact you? CLAPTON: I remember where I was. I remember being in Japan and knowing that he had -- I mean, he had been ill for a long time. I knew it was only a question of time. And I was going to play a show, and they told me when I got to the venue that he had passed.
And I want to get angry, you know, when loved ones die.
CLAPTON: It is like, I take it personally. It is so stupid. But it is like, how can you do this to me?
KING: You remained friends despite taking his wife away?
CLAPTON: Oh, yes, yes, yes. We were both -- I mean, we were musicians. I mean, that was thing that bonded us. I mean, the girlfriends, the wives, you know, they were kind of incidental, in a way, in those days. They are not now, but --
KING: One issue for The Beatles was the song George wrote called "Here Comes the Sun." You were with him in a field in Great Britain as he was writing it. What was that experience like, to witness a songwriting genius, one of your idols, writing a major song?
CLAPTON: Spellbinding. But he -- we would visit one another's houses. You know, and he would come around to my house, I would go around to his house. And we always played the guitar whenever we met up.
And it was very normal for him to come around and play me a song. It was -- you know, he liked -- and he was pretty upfront about that stuff. He had no nerve or no kind of embarrassment, just playing straight to you, you know.
KING: Did you like "Here Comes the Sun" right away?
CLAPTON: Yes. Well, he wrote that in my garden, in fact.
KING: That couldn't miss, when you think about it. How could that miss?
CLAPTON: Yes. That is a great song.
KING: Great tune, great lyrics.
KING: We have an e-mail question from Skye, in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina: "With all that you have accomplished in music, is there something you feel you are still meant to write or perform or record? Is there more for you to do?"
CLAPTON: Yes. A lot more, I think. A lot more. There is a couple of people I still want to work with. And you know, I do like that thing of collaborating with people. I get -- I learn a lot from playing with other musicians. You know, there is always something left to do.
KING: Another e-mail question from Jim in Whittier, California: "Mr. Clapton, I understand that fly-fishing is a favorite hobby of yours. What do you enjoy about it? And what has been your most memorable fishing experience?"
Why do you like it?
CLAPTON: I can forget everything. I go out there and my life -- it sort of time stands still. It really does, you know? There is nothing -- I fish on the Tess (ph) down in Hampshire in...
KING: Stream is quiet?
KING: And the sizzle of the...
CLAPTON: Yes. And getting it dead right. It is that perfectionism thing.
KING: It's a risk.
CLAPTON: It's the one place you can really use perfectionism well.
KING: You are not kidding.
And as we go to break, Eric Clapton with some of the surviving Beatles. Don't go away.
KING: We are back with our remaining moments with Eric Clapton, the autobiography is now out.
Do you still -- by the way, do you still keep in touch with Conor's mother?
CLAPTON: Not very much, no.
CLAPTON: I have visited her a couple of times. But not in the last couple of years.
KING: Did she take it as bad as you?
CLAPTON: Yes. Worse in fact. I think -- I made the point of going to see him, you know, after -- in the funeral home. And she wouldn't do it. And I think that may have kind of hindered her a little bit.
I mean, I think she found it very difficult to accept that he had died, really. KING: Do you still have a thing on -- for fast cars? You are known for keeping an assortment of Ferraris. Back in 2004 you were clocked doing 134 miles an hour on a highway in France. Your license was suspended.
Why were you going so fast?
CLAPTON: It is a good time. I mean, in France, there is not so much. Or with that particular road, the big auto route that goes down from Calais to the south, there is no traffic on it. And they have started busting people, you know, British tourists.
KING: So they grabbed you.
CLAPTON: Yes. They --
KING: Did that happen?
CLAPTON: And what they do is they take your -- they can take the license, if you didn't have anyone with you, you would be done for, because they take the license away completely so you can't drive.
KING: Where do you have homes?
CLAPTON: I live in -- I have a house in England. I have a house in France, a house in Columbus, and a house in Antigua.
KING: Columbus seems so out of the way from those three. What it is like?
CLAPTON: It is great. It is great. Well, it is very much like England to me. It has the same sort of countryside, rolling hills, you know, small kind of civilized communities of people that all know one another. I mean, when first went there, it was just those sitcoms you see where people come in the kitchen unannounced, you know?
KING: How were you accepted in Columbus?
CLAPTON: Oh, just like one of the guys, really.
KING: Yes, not like some big shot?
CLAPTON: I drive my hot rod around. I got -- I like hotrods too, you know? And I drive my hotrod around and everyone is --
KING: Eric, you are going to have a major hit with this book. Not so long between visits again.
CLAPTON: I would love to see you again sometime, Larry.
KING: Welcome back.
KING: "Clapton: The Autobiography," "Clapton: The Complete Clapton" for the CD, both out now. Eric Clapton, available everywhere. Don't forget to head to our Web site, cnn.com/larryking. We have got a special Eric Clapton quick vote. You can also download our current podcast, Kid Rock. Upcoming guests are listed there, too, as always. You can send them an e-mail question. It is all one hot Web site, cnn.com/larryking.
Monday night, Donald Trump. "Anderson Cooper 360" starts right now.
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