Eric Clapton has spent much of 2021 going full heel and devolving into a persona that exists somewhere between a malignant narcissist and a birthday clown. Whether spouting conspiracy theories around Covid, having his racist past re-examined, or suing a woman for selling a pirated version of one of his albums for $11, no one made a bigger turn into a full-on cartoon villain quite the way Clapton did this year.
But Clapton did get one piece of positive press this year. Actually, it was positive press from 1969, but I don’t think Clapton should be too choosy at this point. Yes, it was the adorable man crush that George Harrison had for Clapton throughout The Beatles: Get Back.
Harrison clearly admires his friend’s improvisational skills and ability to fill out arrangements that are often just drums, bass, and guitar. Funny enough, no one else seems all that interested. In fact, John Lennon and Paul McCartney seem quite annoyed at Harrison’s gushing, with McCartney giving him a curt “it’s jazz, man” when Harrison tries to explain how singular Clapton’s abilities are.
Although it isn’t mentioned in the docuseries, Clapton has actually already played with the band by this point. Harrison brought him into the sessions for ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, partly to utilise his talents and partly to keep his bandmates focused. Clapton’s solo represents one of the few high-profile guest spots that ever occurred on a Beatles song.
Harrison’s constant building up of Clapton almost worked against him when Harrison decided to temporarily leave the group. One of the suggestions thrown out by the rest of the band was to bring Clapton in as a replacement, although it likely wasn’t taken very seriously at the time.
The talk of Clapton and jazz eventually has Harrison mention Ray Charles, who was employing a young piano player by the name of Billy Preston. The Beatles first befriended Preston when he was a part of Little Richards’ band when the two acts crossed paths in Hamburg in the early ’60s. Preston was set to play with Lulu on a television special in a few days, and a quick visit to the studio lead to a prominent role in the Get Back project.
Check out Harrison admiring his fellow musicians down below.