Regardless of what Eric Clapton really said during the Birmingham concert, it was bad enough for photographer Red Saunders to get together with several friends and form the Rock Against Racism movement, which staged a series of concerts and similar events designed to spread awareness about the increase in racist attacks in Britain. RAR’s founders also called out the guitarist in an open letter published by NME. “Come on Eric… Own up. Half your music is black. You’re rock music’s biggest colonist,” the letter read in part, as quoted by The Guardian. RAR ended their message by referencing the fact that Clapton covered Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff,” writing, “P.S. Who shot the sheriff, Eric? It sure as hell wasn’t you!”
In recent years, young musicians like Phoebe Bridgers and veterans such as Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid have spoken about Clapton in similarly unflattering terms while taking stock of his past remarks and his purported appropriation of Black music. As quoted by The Washington Post, Bridgers called Clapton a “famous racist” who makes “extremely mediocre music,” while Reid noted on social media that it’s “important not to sidestep the curious phenomena of Racist With The Blues.” The Guardian also noted how Clapton was a “serial borrower” who, outside of the actual music, grew a perm back in 1967 so that he could look more like Jimi Hendrix – notice how “Slowhand” sticks out in the band photo above with fellow Cream members Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.