Phoebe Bridgers on Eric Clapton: “extremely mediocre music,” “a famous racist”
On Phoebe Bridgers' great new album Punisher, she sings the line "We hate ‘Tears In Heaven’/ But it’s sad that his baby died" on "Moon Song," in reference to the 1992 Eric Clapton song about the death of his four-year-old son Conor.
Phoebe expanded on that in a new interview with Double J, where she mentioned that she had never heard from Clapton or his people about the lyric, and where she also had even more to say about Slowhand. "I have such an Eric Clapton rant, because I think it's just extremely mediocre music, but also he's a famous racist."
"Sometimes I think people are too problematic to be cancelled, or not relevant enough to be cancelled," she added. "I mean, it wouldn't even make news if he said something racist today, because he went on a racist rant in the 60s or 70s that was very famous."
"The lyric used to be, 'we hate Eric Clapton'. It's actually kind of worse now. Because it's the dead baby song, which is a heartbreaking song. If I were to pick an Eric Clapton song, it's up there with the ones that I actually like. So, it's kind of a lie on the record, but it sounds more poetic."
She previously spoke about it in an interview with UPROXX too:
Tony [Berg, the album’s co-producer] yelled at me. He was like, “Poor Eric Clapton, don’t rip on Eric Clapton.” And I was like, “I’m going to rip on racist Eric Clapton, whose music I hate.” But I’ll fucking change the lyrics. It’s actually more brutal now. It’s a song about his dead kid. It was less brutal when it was like, “I hate your music, but it’s sad that your baby died.” Now it’s, “I hate your song about your dead baby, but it’s sad.” I don’t actually mind that song, I mind the rest of his catalogue more. In an attempt to kind of save it, I think I maybe made it a little bit worse.
When asked what she hates about Clapton's catalog, she added, "It’s just so fucking white. And he famously said that the UK is a white place, and black people should disappear from it. I think his music is just boring. But knowing that he’s a bad dude makes it worse."
The next lyric in "Moon Song" is "And we fought about John Lennon/ Until I cried," and Phoebe also spoke about both Lennon and Clapton in an interview with Boston Glove:
There was no real thesis to including it, but I want people to know that I don’t like both of those people as people. They’re weirdly opposites, because they’re both really problematic. John Lennon beat the [expletive] out of his first wife, and nobody really talks about it. And he was the most fake activism guy ever. And Eric Clapton went on a whole racist rant about how “England is a white country and kick all the Black people out.”
So it’s not true that only people who make [expletive] music like Eric Clapton are problematic. Daniel Johnston wouldn’t have made the music that he did if it weren’t for John Lennon, and he’s definitely the best Beatle. But you can’t deny someone is a bad person because you love their art. And you can’t conveniently be like, “I hate Eric Clapton anyway, so of course he’s bad.” Sometimes they’re the same person.
Punisher co-producer Ethan Gruska also spoke about the lyric to LA Times: "Her tone is magical. However brutal the song may be, her voice puts across so much empathy."