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If testimony and evidence mean anything, Eric Clapton is in a good place. In February, he earned his 19th Grammy (for The Road to Escondido) and reunited with Blind Faith bandmate Steve Winwood for three widely acclaimed concerts at Madison Square Garden. The North Korean government invited Clapton to become the first rock musician to play the last bastion of true Communism; he has yet to decide whether to accept the invitation. In 2007, Clapton completed a 133-date world tour, hosted the second Crossroads Guitar Festival to raise money for his substance abuse center in Antigua, and hit The New York Times bestseller list with Clapton: The Autobiography. He's been happily married to Melia McEnery Clapton for six years, and they have three little girls who think the world of their daddy, without a thought for his troubled past.

This all seems pretty sedate for the man whose work with a Gibson Les Paul led counterculture enthusiasts to declare on subway walls that "Clapton is God," the man "adopted" by Muddy Waters and commissioned to carry on the legacy of the blues. But his road has seldom been smooth. From the age of 9 when he learned that he was born out of wedlock to his "auntie" and an unknown Canadian soldier, he struggled to find a safe place. Feelings of isolation and insecurity haunted him throughout life, drawing him to the gritty alienation of the blues. But there is a spiritual side of Clapton that was scarcely known. It almost always influenced what he thought and did, and the kind of music he wrote and played.

Clapton never set himself up as a model of Christian faith, and admits as much. He grew up in rural Surrey attending a local congregation of the Church of England, and in his autobiography, wrote that he ...

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April 2008

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