Clapton’s blind faith

IN 1969, a young rhythm and blues guitarist would pen a song that would become his personal anthem. The ensuing album his band produced containing the song was so highly acclaimed it rose to number one the US and UK music charts.

Struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, this extremely talented musician was inspired to write one of the most amazing and heart-warming songs ever recorded.

Although his band released just the one album, it came to be known as one of the all-time classics featuring some of the most amazing musicians, guitar licks and melodies ever assembled. And the other songs on the album have become anthems in their own right.

However, the inspiration for the name of the band and the name of the song would speak volumes about this young man’s life.

Blind Faith, the band, and Presence of the Lord the song is a rousing testimony to Eric Clapton’s faith in God. His choice in the name of the band says everything. It was to become a reminder of what it took to make the transition from a life of addiction to drugs and alcohol to believing how a kind, loving and gracious God, when beseeched, can totally turn and heal a broken man’s life.

Presence of the Lord is Clapton’s song of gratitude to God for saving him from his demons and himself.

It is one of my all-time favourites because of its deeply moving lyrics and it resonates for me personally for many different reasons.

Even though Clapton wrote the entire lyrics, he chose his good mate Steve Winwood to sing the song because Winwood could reach the high notes he couldn’t. And so was born a stirring ode to God’s goodness and graciousness as seen through Clapton’s eyes.

I’ve been a Clapton fan from the days when he played with blues colossus, John Mayall and the Blues Breakers in the early 1960s.

Our band Ulysses was one of the few outfits in Fiji that played some of his all-time great songs because of how much we enjoyed this amazing musician and human being.

He continues to inspire me even today.

The ’60s was an amazing era in so many ways because it also became the launching pad for the rise of movements to tear down the roots of racism and apartheid through a string of protest songs.

The US became the ground-breaking world capital for dissent through music and social justice.

Woodstock, the three-day music festival would become a catalyst for social change even impacting the political landscape of America.

Richie Havens’ Freedom captured the hearts of over 500,000 people at Woodstock.

Joan Baez, the passionate political activist and folk hero, caned the US’ involvement in the Vietnam War through her song, Joe Hill at the same historic music event. The haunting melodies of her song grabbed the heartstrings of millions and she went on to protest the many injustices of the time.

And even though the US Government of the late sixties was aware the Vietnam War was an unwinnable conflict, they tragically sent their young to die needlessly, not to mention the thousands of Vietnamese men, women and children who also lost their lives in what was a futile war.

Adding insult to injury, the thousands of returned US and Australian Vietnam War servicemen had to endure the indignity of coming home to a tirade of abuse from the public about losing the war. And they had to live with the stigma until things changed many years later.

Going back even further, and not long after World War II, our planet was in a state of metamorphosis. Leaders like President John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr and many others became the prophetic voices of transformation.

While both men stood tall for the oppressed, tragically, they were assassinated for their strongly held beliefs. Yet such was the power of their conviction, they touched millions around the world and their legacy still lives on today. It was a time when the world struggled with accepting ethnic cohesion and equal citizenry.

And yet the irony in all of this is — the Allies had just beaten Hitler and his bigoted Nazis who claimed to be Aryan elites.

In the 1930s and ’40s, Hitler had unleashed Nazism declaring that blond and blue-eyed Germans were a cut above the rest of humanity. While this diabolical untruth and self-deception was a propaganda spin (one only had to look at Hitler to know this) its caustic roots would begin spreading far and wide where apartheid became a symbol for mainstream elitists.

The ’60s freedom fighters risked their lives to tear down the bastions of bigotry, injustice and segregation. The men and women who fought to free people from tyrannical despots and the prejudices of deeply divided politics became cult heroes, liturgised in song and poetry.

Like many other countries, Fiji too was in the grip of political change where British colonialism came into sharp conflict for favouring the privileged few.

The divide and rule regimen of the British Empire was responsible for keeping ethnic races segregated creating so much unnecessary ill-will between people and communities that it beggars belief.

We lived through this tragic time in history having to wear their badge of bigotry. The tragedy in all of this is — we didn’t realise we were pawns in a power game until it was much too late. Instead of building a bridge of brotherhood, the colonials created dissension by focusing on and highlighting ethnic and religious differences and disparities.

Colonialism, in many respects, was seen as a hangover from the days of the slave trade. Yet an exclusive enclave in Fiji espoused this position as they enjoyed the privileges of the upper class elites.

While many amazing men and women fought these abhorrent policies they were labelled extremist rabble rousers who needed to be reminded of their station in life. However, they stoically persevered because they believed in the dignity of human rights and equal citizenry.

Fiji has come a long way since those dark days yet it still needs to find its feet to run on the road of true freedom and democracy. Before the FijiFirst Government came into power, the interim government did a lot of ground work to ensure a free and fair electoral system would replace the old ethnically-based voting system.

Then, I applauded their work because I felt they were on the right track. Like me, many hoped that a reconfigured electoral system would ensure there would be a free and fair voting system helping to unite Fiji giving everyone an equal voice. This, I believed, would become one of the pillars of Fiji’s constitutional democracy.

However, what has transpired since leaves me wondering whether the system that’s been created could be seen as gerrymandering. It pains me to even say this because I believed the right thing was being done for the people of Fiji who’ve lived so long under an oppressive, racist system riddled with flaws segregating our people.

I’m far from being a cynic by any stretch of the imagination, however, I’m concerned that Fiji’s electoral system could be seen as favouring one political party’s ambitions which saddens me greatly.

On the positive side, perhaps this system could be seen as an infant precursor to the blessings of a true parliamentary democracy still in the making.

Or are my observations just the ramblings of an old rock’n’roller. Perhaps someone might care to enlighten me.

* The views expressed are the author’s and not of this newspaper.

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