Eric Clapton's embrace of discredited COVID-19 theories have caused a major strain on his relationships with friends and family, he says.
Speaking to a filmmaking group called Oracle Films (which has produced several videos critical of pandemic-related lockdowns), Clapton traces his path to disillusionment — the same process by which people come to believe the Earth is flat.
Slowhand admits he became deeply frustrated with the U.K. government during Brexit. After his world tour in 2020 was canceled due to COVID, he turned to the YouTube algorithm for "alternative data." There, he found videos by groups promoting the widely-criticized, implausible theory of "focused protection" from the virus, which would essentially impose lockdowns only on vulnerable groups (like Clapton, a 76-year-old with emphysema), leaving COVID free to spread among the rest of the population.
After being critically misinformed by YouTube, Clapton turned to other skeptic channels, like the embattled, encrypted chat app Telegram. But as he waded deeper into the COVID conspiracy waters, his friends distanced themselves from him, he says.
“I would try to reach out to fellow musicians and sometimes I just don’t hear from them anymore,” Clapton said. “My phone doesn’t ring very often. I don’t get that many texts and emails any more. It’s quite noticeable.”
Clapton says his outspokenness on the lockdowns got him "labelled a Trump supporter" and caused friction in his household.
He tried to push the vaccine theories on his daughters, but they rejected the evidence-less claim that the vaccines adversely affect fertility.
In December, Clapton launched an ongoing collaboration with Van Morrison with a widely-criticized anti-lockdown song called "Stand and Deliver" in which the duo compared the lockdowns to a form of slavery.
Clapton has been on the wrong side of history before. In 1976, he famously launched into a racist tirade during a concert in Birmingham, England, urging his countrymen to "Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white" by voting for a conservative candidate. He later apologized, blaming his drinking and drug use, but the incident still dogs him.
With regards to the COVID vaccine, COVID infection rates have plunged in nations in which the vaccines have been widely administered. More than 2.39 billion shots have been administered worldwide, including more than 311 million doses in the U.S. Severe side effects remain extremely rare.