Eric Clapton: Guitar God Reveals Neuro Issue May End His Career

Eric Clapton recently revealed that he is losing his ability to manage the instrument that made him famous. Diagnosed with a condition called peripheral neuropathy, the 71-year old musician now struggles to play guitar. Clapton told Classic Rock magazine that he’s maintaining a positive attitude despite having to come to grips with the fact that his plight is not likely to improve.

“I’ve had quite a lot of pain over the last year. It started with lower back pain, and turned into what they call peripheral neuropathy – which is where you feel like you have electric shocks going down your leg.”

The troubling news is a hard blow to fans who have been following Eric Clapton’s career since he joined British blues cum pop band the Yardbirds in 1963.

Ever the blues purist, Eric Clapton left the Yardbirds on the day their first bona fide hit, “For Your Love,” was released in March 1965. At the time, Clapton explained that he was not interested in the pop direction the band was taking. Jeff Beck replaced him in the band lineup, and Clapton wasted no time in accepting an offer to join John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers.

After a tempestuous 14-month stint during which he quit and rejoined the Bluesbreakers more than once, he left the band for good in July 1966 and was replaced by fellow blues virtuoso, Peter Green. Shortly thereafter, Eric Clapton joined musical forces with bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker to form the world’s first “supergroup,” Cream.

Eric Clapton is a guitarist’s guitarist with a virtuosity unmatched by most. Session player and music instructor Reid Savage lauded his skills to The Telegraph on Clapton’s birthday last year.

“His repertoire of licks and variations on the blues scale extends towards the infinite and his phrasing can be exquisite. Clapton always brings an indefinable extra twist of fluidity to his phrasing. He’s a singer, too, and really knows where to judiciously weave his playing into a lead vocal top-line. He can be very languid but when he wants to step it up, he channels some kind of thug mentality –he’s got such fury and fire in his belly, he almost hits bum notes, but his deep understanding of scales means he can play his way out of any tight corner. He’s pretty sodding fantastic.”

Eric Clapton marvels at his good fortune in having lived through his past excesses and expresses gratitude at having survived this long.

“Because I’m in recovery from alcoholism and addiction to substances, I consider it a great thing to be alive at all. By rights I should have kicked the bucket a long time ago. For some reason I was plucked from the jaws of hell and given another chance.”

On June 10, Guitar World magazine described Clapton’s latest album, I Still Do, as a reflective and intriguing collection of songs that prove the award-winning musician is still able to deliver. I Still Do is Clapton’s 20th solo effort and features two “new” JJ Cale numbers as well as an “eerie” composition by Robert Johnson entitled “Stones in My Passway.” Eric Clapton’s fan club website,, notes that the album is hovering near the top of U.S. and U.K. record charts.

Peripheral neuropathy of the sort that has stricken Eric Clapton is a disorder of the central nervous system. It affects tens of millions of people around the globe, according to the National Institutes of Health. Symptoms may appear gradually and include tingling and burning sensations in the extremities along with progressive muscle weakness. Some persons with the condition may experience a distorted sense of touch and may even interpret common physical touch -such as playing a guitar- as pain. As the disorder progresses, a person may suffer from impaired digestion, muscle wasting, unsteady gait and decreased sexual function. NIH notes that although peripheral neuropathy is potentially debilitating, it is not generally fatal.

Whether the devastating effects of peripheral neuropathy will end Eric Clapton’s career as a performer remains to be seen. At this point, the revered musician says that he can still play and is enjoying life with his wife, kids and grandkids. On June 10, Eric Clapton spoke with The Daily Mail.

“It’s hard work sometimes, the physical side of it – just getting old, man, is hard. But I love to play, still. I sit in the corner of our front room with a guitar, and I play in the morning and I rest in the afternoon. Life is good.”

[Image by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Images]

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