devastating news : Eric Clapton involved in a car accident

Three car accidents, one near helicopter crash, the dreadful toll of heroin addiction and the devastating death of his son: How Eric Clapton became rock n’roll’s greatest survivor

Live fast die young. However naïve it is a philosophy attributed to the greater excesses of rock and roll hedonism.

But a new book suggests Eric Clapton has performed nothing short of a miracle by surviving where many of his peers have not following a series of personal setbacks, catastrophic collisions and life-changing tragedies.

The legendary guitarist’s colourful past is detailed in Slowhand: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, partly adapted from a series of candid interviews conducted and collated by celebrated biographer Philip Norman with Clapton and his closest circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

While the often wild sixties and early seventies claimed a host of high-profile casualties – Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix immediately spring to mind – Clapton managed to avoid early death despite his enormous appetite for alcohol and heroin, a fact that is not lost on Norman.

‘His brushes with the law have been so slight despite his addiction to heroin, there has been the helicopter crash, the car crashes, he has never had to sue his management, he still has his copyrights.’

Indeed, the musician survived numerous car accidents, the first coming in 1970 when he careered off the road while driving his lilac-coloured Ferrari without a driving licence.

In 1990 Clapton would be behind the wheel of a third Ferrari while suffering another scrape as he drove 300 yards to a local pub at the end of his driveway near the quaint village of Ripley in leafy Surrey.

However his greatest near miss would come later that year, when a helicopter originally scheduled to seat the musician before he changed his mind crashed into an artificial ski-slope in Wisconsin, killing all five people board – among them blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.

After overcoming alcoholism and the dreadful toll of heroin abuse – according to Norman the star spent today’s equivalent of £10,000 a week on the drug at the height of his addiction in the seventies – his abstinence would be challenged following the death of four-year old son Conor in March 1991.

Conor was killed instantly after falling from  an open window on the 53rd floor of the New York skyscraper in which he was living with his mother, the Italian actress Lory del Santo.

Recalling the moment he saw his son’s body in the mortuary, Clapton recalled:  ‘Whatever physical damage Conor suffered in the fall, by the time I saw him they had restored his body to some normality.

Eric turned out to have huge strength of character,’ Vivien Griffin, his secretary, explains in the book. ‘The kind of tragedy he’d suffered would have sent most people back to the bottle.

‘What kept him going, he always said, was the thought that it would be a betrayal of Conor.’

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