Aug 26, 2008

Paean for the good laborers on Labor Day

(Including all great successes, such as the Chinese Olympic Games display.)

This paean – old fashioned word for song of praise – deals with Eric Clapton, born in Ripley, Surrey, England, and why the BBC referred to him as “God” in one broadcast.

Those interested in music may remember that according to general acknowledgement, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton were the two people who taught us all how to play the electric, as opposed to acoustic, guitar, and the voice of Eric "Slowhand" Clapton's guitar is unmistakable, that high singing tone that goes like a knife through butter, like a laser through a lump of tofu, and he didn't go under in the colorful seas of the sixties like Hendrix.

Those with more detailed memories may recall that “Cream,” called that because they were indisputably the cream in the heady 1960’s Carnaby Street days, consisted of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Bruce. Clapton went on to a very successful solo career also, - who can forget "Long tall Sally,” or “Wonderful tonight”? – but more important than any of this was the fact that he carried on working as a session musician, i.e., when the local session musicians were called in to do, say a jingle for a breakfast cereal manufacturer, one of the sound technicians would nudge one of the other sound technicians and say, “Hey, you see that guy in the sports jacket who just went out? You know who that was? That was Eric Clapton.”

In this spirit of determined anonymity, it was hardly surprising that perhaps his greatest success, “Layla,” a favorite even of President George Bush, was put out as performed by “Derek and the Dominoes,” yeah, you remember them, surely! Derek and the Dominoes, Layla and other love songs, but dominated by the title track with its haunting final minor key instrumental, like Steve Miller’s Song for the Ancestors track with the ships hooting in the bay.

It was that spirit of determined anonymity, with stellar accomplishments to brag about but never mentioned, that gave him the awed recognition they owed him, and made the BBC refer to him as “God,” – yes, this is where you get in and say “Oh, I thought it was Guaranteed Overnight Delivery” - and in a sense that was the kind of attitude that his fans seemed to adopt. Everybody knew what the BBC meant, and agreed with it, and there was never, God be thanked, as there certainly would have been in these good ole US of A, an attempt to ban the program by right wing religious groups for blasphemy.

Happy Labor Day, successful laborers of the world. More power to your elbow!

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