Eric Clapton and the racial problem


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Eps 11: Eric Clapton and the racial problem

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A little over a decade later, as producer of Driving Miss Daisy, she became only the second woman to win a best picture Oscar.
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Eugene Daniels

Eugene Daniels

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On a typical day, he'd have a bottle of cognac for lunch, then snort cocaine from a knife and then a glass of wine for dinner.
The nadir came when he unleashed a series of racist slurs against immigrants, Muslims and other non-white people. He shouted: "Get the foreigners out, get the w's and the s's," "get the c's out" and repeated the slogan "Keep Britain White." He later tried to play down the tirade as a joke, apologising for it and softly extolling the virtues of Enoch Powell, who warned about the dangers of immigration during his time in the House of Commons and praised the controversial Tory MP for his anti-immigration views.
I don't want to talk about it, but Clapton is not the only one in the music industry with a history of racist behaviour.
I loved talking about the controversial Tory politician Enoch Powell, who was described as a prophet. Britain was in danger of becoming a black colony, and to keep it white we needed a man who described himself as "the man." In an irony that Clapton may have lost, the Odeon in Birmingham was on New Street, not far from the Midland Hotel where Powell had delivered his infamous "River of Blood" speech eight years earlier.
In the usual circumstances, Clapton's comments would be ill-advised, but it is the social and political context that makes his intervention so frightening. At a time when racial violence was on the rise in Britain, with some seemingly flirting with fascism, what he said posed a serious threat to the safety and well-being of black and white people in Britain.
More than anything, the coming-out has inspired people to the idea that something needs to be done on the national front. Massive demonstrations responded, and Rock Against Racism was founded, originally conceived as a one-off concert with a message against racism.
Rubika Shah's award-winning documentary recalls the movement that put anti-racist politics at the heart of punk rock. Other well-known rock musicians made inflammatory statements at the time, including David Bowie, who expressed support for fascism and admiration for Adolf Hitler in interviews with Playboy and Swedish magazine NME. Bowie was quoted as saying he believed Britain could benefit from fascist leaders.
Nowadays, an outburst like this could set off a social media storm that would kill a career, but not in the case of Eric Clapton and his band.
Clapton's rancorous tirade had consequences, inspiring a brief but highly effective movement that is remembered in the Black Panther Party's song "Black Power" of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In that sense, Eric Clapton's contribution to the anti-racism movement was exemplary, but the effect was more muted. EricClapon started it all and is still alive today, although not quite as loud as it used to be.
In August 1976, when the NF was flourishing as the fourth largest political party in Britain, the venerable guitarist interrupted a concert in Birmingham with a raucous performance of "Black Power," the most expressive part of which is an ode to Enoch Powell. The Anti-Racism Movement, an armada of niche groups from Nazis to Spornnazis, from schoolchildren to schoolchildren sailing under the RAR and ANL flagships, became Britain's "largest mass movement" - CND.
After the stabbing of black teenager Meredith Hunter by Hells Angel Alan Passaro, the racial relationship that had always been the main subtext of rock "n" roll was dramatically tarnished in the wake of Hunter's murder and the subsequent arrest of her killer. In 1978, Billy Bragg described the RAR carnival in Victoria Park as "the moment my generation took sides.
In the Anglophone world, Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," published in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, led the Confederates - waving flags - in the United States and Europe.
Clapton, a serious bluesman and virtuoso guitarist, lamented with Jimi Hendrix, who called him "the fairest soul brother in England," and B.B. King, who expressed his gratitude for having helped popularize blues in white America and opened the door for musicians like him. The first concert of Rock against Racism (RAR) was held in Washington D.C., inspired by the movement.
A month later, in November 1978, the Racial Equality Commission ordered Pollyanna's to open its doors to blacks and Chinese, and the popular nightclub turned people away. Regardless, amendments to the law, enforced by three consecutive racial relations laws and enshrined in legislative amendments, continued white supremacy and racial discrimination in America's public schools, hospitals, schools, and other public institutions.