Eric Clapton Retiring? Says He ‘Kind Of Might Be Saying Goodbye’ With Release of ‘I Still Do’

Eric Clapton is hinting once again that he might be on the verge of retiring.

Clapton has threatened retirement in the past, but the Chicago Tribune reports that the 71-year-old guitar legend might be serious about calling it quits this time.

The newspaper noted that, with the loss of big name musicians like David Bowie and Prince, and with Clapton being especially hard-hit by the loss of his musical idols, J.J. Cale and B.B. King, Clapton may feel it’s time to hang up the guitar before he’s forced to quit.

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It’s particularly telling, the newspaper notes, that the final track on Clapton’s latest album, I Still Do, features his version of the Billie Holiday classic, “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

Clapton explained why he chose that particularly haunting song for the final track on the album:

“It’s one of those things that’s been haunting me. I love the song and I love the sentiment. Just in case I don’t cut another record, this is how I feel. I kind of might be saying goodbye. But I’ve been doing that for a while.”

Eric Clapton further hinted to Rolling Stone magazine that his career might be coming to an end.

“I’ve had some health issues with my back and a neurological thing that is tricky, that affects my hands. If there’s no serious fallout, I’ll start looking to do some work. If there is, I’ll have to figure out what to do next – maybe take it easy for a while.”

Clapton’s album is being released on Friday and gives homage to other legendary bluesmen, including Cale, Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan. The album also features two original songs.

Clapton said recording the album with producer Glyn Johns, the same producer who partnered with Eric for Slowhand some 40 years ago, was not an easy task considering he was suffering from a nasty case of eczema.

“It was a nightmare. I started thinking that it was psychosomatic, that maybe I was nervous. And maybe I was. Who knows? I had full-body eczema and it ended up my hands.”

Typical Eric Clapton, who has overcome a plethora of obstacles throughout his life and career, he refused to give power to the skin condition and the pain that came along with it. The condition was so much a part of the recording sessions that he featured a photo of his hand wrapped in a protective mitt on the neck of a guitar with only his fingertips exposed on the back cover of I Still Do.

There has been much speculation about one of the album’s credits for “Angelo Mysterioso” for acoustic guitar and vocals on the song, I Will Be There. It is eerily similar to a pseudonym used by the late George Harrison when he played on a Clapton album but couldn’t be credited for contractual reasons. In recent weeks, speculation circulated that it was a track the former Beatle had left behind following his death in 2001.

While the thought was “really sweet,” Clapton said the speculations are incorrect. Instead the old pseudonym was revisited because the real artist’s record company didn’t want him associated with Clapton.

“I like the idea that people will speculate. They might get it right. They might get it wrong. But I’m not going to say. I gave my word.”

If Clapton’s performing days truly are numbered, he doesn’t seem too upset about those days of endless travel coming to an end. Clapton told the Tribune he still enjoys performing, but does not relish days of travel or nights in hotels.

Clapton added that his days of slaying the frets on his guitar may be likewise numbered.

“I can’t go to that place anymore. I have to work hard now to get to the place where it’s absolutely free. The days you’re referring to I was doing it non-stop all day long and it was all I ever thought about. I was a young man with a passion. I don’t know that guy anymore at all. But I know where the music came from and I can tap into a point where I think it’s OK.”

Eric Clapton’s I Still Do will be released on May 20 (Friday) along with an hour-long TV special focusing on the album.

(Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)