Eric Clapton: ‘Maybe the Guitar Is Over’

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Eric Clapton

It’s a shocking statement to see from one of the most renowned and influential guitarists in history but there it is: At a press conference Monday morning promoting the screening of his documentary Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars at the Toronto International Film Festival, the master musician wondered aloud if the best days of the instrument may be behind us. (The highlights of the press conference were reprinted in Billboard.)

According to the article, Clapton was told that guitar sales have been on a steady decline, and that music education typically leans toward horns and strings. “I didn’t realize it was that bad,” Clapton responded—the publication notes that he laughed as he said it. He then continued: “I’m out of touch. I mean, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know where it’s gonna go either. I think anything that has a natural process will end up where it’s supposed to be.”

Related: Watch the trailer from the Clapton documentary, Life in 12 Bars

Clapton then noted that his own children listen to classic rock, “but that may only be because of me, because that’s what I’ve played to them. I mean, from the time of their conception, they’ve been listening to music through the womb.”

He added that he believes that “in music is it’s all good…Even stuff that doesn’t appear to be so, it’s all good.” The shocker line came when Slowhand—as he’s been nicknamed for decades—was informed that the major guitar-makers, Fender and Gibson, have reported a steep decline in sales. “I don’t know. Maybe the guitar is over,” Clapton said, laughing again. “Good question though.”

Clapton rarely performs live concerts anymore. He is playing six shows in the United States this month. Read our account of his Sept. 7 show at Madison Square Garden here and watch a video clip below.

PS—For what it’s worth, guitar sales were down in the early ’60s when the Beatles were trying to get a record deal. One short-sighted executive was said to have proclaimed, “Guitar bands are over!”

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