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Clapton live -- on 'Larry King'

Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton  
February 13, 1998
Web posted at: 4:20 p.m. EST (2120 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Eric Clapton almost never gives interviews, not even if he has a new record out.

The legendary musician, who has been on Larry King's "wish list" of guests for years, finally broke his code of silence Thursday to talk about his newest album, "Pilgrim," his upcoming tour and an addiction treatment center he helped found in the Caribbean.

"Pilgrim" arrives in stores on March 3; the entire album grew out of the title track.

A L S O :

Full Transcript

"I thought it was a good way of actually following the thread from 'Journeyman,' which was the same kind of meaning, really," he said.

Clapton said he considers "Pilgrim" an autobiographical work, an opportunity to look at his life as a musician -- "I see myself as kind of being like a lone guy on a quest," he said.

Clapton "Unplugged"  

Not that its autobiographical nature made it any easier to write.

"It's very tough to write because I'm my own worst critic and it's difficult to express myself and try and get it right," he said.

Clapton got his first musical break in the mid-1960s with the London band The Yardbirds. After building a following at a local club there, and a London-wide fan base later, he eventually left.

The other band members, he said, were too worried about producing a hit song, and less interested in simply "making good albums."

"Intuitively, I knew it was dangerous to play around with that stuff or to be lured into the spotlight on that level," he said.

Nonetheless, he added, the experience was valuable, because when he watched his fans, "that's what kind of made me believe I had something mroe than just anybody else."

As he prepares to begin, on March 30, a major tour through the United States, Canada and Europe with a 20-piece orchestra, he is also working to promote a new drug treatment center he established in Antigua.

Offering treatment help in Antigua

Clapton, who acknowledged on "Larry King Live" that he began using drugs recreationally at the age of 15, eventually going through treatment twice to break his addiction to drugs and alcohol, said that thanks to treatment centers, he has been sober for 10 years. Even during the widely publicized death of his son, he did not go back to drugs.

But many people in Antigua, which he has made his second home over the last 15 years, lack the same opportunity to get help. He has seen many problems with addiction there, no one to tend to them and a great deal of misinformation.

He hopes his Crossroads Center will begin to rectify the situation when it opens in July.

One-third of the beds will be available to people who can't afford treatment. Clients from Europe and the Americas who can afford to pay will subsidize the free beds, Clapton explained.

Meanwhile, he continues to pursue his music, saying he won't retire as long as he's improving musically. "I need to know that I am actually getting a little bit better all the time."

Referring to 72-year-old B.B. King, an artist who Clapton considers better musically than he was 50 years ago, he continued, "What proves that is for me, to go see someone like B.B., because I know it can be done. I see him do it so I know it can be done."


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