Eric Clapton: ‘I should have kicked the bucket a long time ago’

Eric Clapton has admitted he now struggles to play guitar due to damage to his nervous system – but added that he feels ‘lucky to still be alive’ because of his past addictions to alcohol, prescription drugs, cocaine and heroin.

The guitar hero told Classic Rock magazine he “can still play” but it is “hard work”.

“I’ve had quite a lot of pain over the last year,” he said. “It started with lower back pain and turned into what they call peripheral neuropathy, which is where you feel like you have electric shocks going down your leg.”

“And I’ve had to figure out how to deal with some other things from getting old.”

But the 71-year-old, whose glittering career encompassed playing with John Mayall, Cream and the original “super group” Blind Faith, added that given his life had been fraught with addiction “I consider it a great thing to be alive at all”.

“Because I’m in recovery from alcoholism and addiction to substances, I consider it a great thing to be alive at all,” said the rock legend, whose classic hits include Wonderful Tonight, Layla and Tears In Heaven. “By rights I should have kicked the bucket a long time ago.

“For some reason I was plucked from the jaws of hell and given another chance,’ he added. “I don’t know how I survived – the Seventies especially.”

In 2013, Clapton was forced to cancel several shows because of back pain. In interviews, he likened the pain to “electric shocks going down your leg”.

“I mean, it’s hard work sometimes, the physical side of it – just getting old, man, is hard,” said the guitarist, who released his 23rd studio album I Still Do last month.