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41 Years Ago: Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert Takes Place

Most stints in rehab take place secretly, or at the very least privately. Then there was Eric Clapton’s famed Rainbow Concert, which served as an all-too-public, one-night cold turkey of sorts proclaiming the legendary guitarist’s resurgence from the dire depths of heroin addiction – goosed along by some well-intentioned celebrity friends.

Clapton’s descent into serious addiction had begun almost three years prior, and was spurred on by a combination of professional and personal issues – namely his restless cameos with multiple bands and artists (a byproduct of his reluctance to embrace stardom) and unrequited love for George Harrison‘s then-wife Pattie, who was the subject of Derek and the Dominos’ timeless ‘Layla.’

In fact, barring Clapton’s one-off public appearance at Harrison’s 1971 Concert for Bangladesh (where he proceeded to nod off mid-solo!), the guitarist spent the better part of two years nursing his opiate demons in deepest suburban Surrey, and it would require his friend Pete Townshend taking it upon himself to book a special “comeback” concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre on January 13, 1973 to literally drag Eric back under the spotlights.

Errrr…no pressure, E.C.

Once there, Clapton found himself affectionately supported (and in many ways “sponsored”) for a pair of sold-out sets on one night by not only Townshend, but also his former Blind Faith partners Steve Winwood and Ric Grech, Traffic‘s Jim Capaldi, and Ron Wood from the Faces. And while a mere six songs would eventually be culled for the landmark live album released some nine months later (subsequently expanded to a dozen-plus cuts for the inevitable future CD reissues), the evening’s most important mission had been accomplished insofar as jolting Clapton back into action.

Henceforth, the man formerly known as “God” would gradually find his way forward once again towards a broadly celebrated solo career carried by innumerable mainstream triumphs – all of which may have fallen into the “what if” category of rock and roll drug casualties, were it not for the musical intervention undertaken on his behalf by way of the Rainbow Concert.

Next: Cream's Farewell Concert

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