Earlier today I got into yet another hour-long conversation about the divisiveness occurring in our society. I get into conversations or debates about the recent hostility between people numerous times a day. I find myself on one side and the person I am communicating with on the other side, even when we agree. You’re not completely wrong to think that maybe it’s just me. I put myself in these situation and talk about topics I’m told not to (politics). However, after numerous conversations with friends I conclude I am not the only one faced with these recent squabbles. It appears everyone is experiencing this. Instead of trying to dissect the causes and the history of such divisiveness, I want to propose a solution: Eric Clapton.
I am not talking about a The Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton. Nor am I speaking about a Cream Eric Clapton (though that’s my personal favorite). I am talking about a “Tears in Heaven” Eric Clapton.
Clapton wrote “Tears in Heaven” following the death of his 4-year old son Conor in 1991. Conor fell from a 53rd-floor New York City apartment building. “Tears in Heaven” went on to win 3 Grammy Awards including Record and Song of the year. He also won Best Male Video at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, which brings me to my point.
There had been a widely reported ongoing feud between two Northwest alternative grunge bands leading up to the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards: Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Nirvana’s front man, Kurt Cobain did not hide his dislike for Pearl Jam frontman, Eddie Vedder. Cobain repeatedly called Pearl Jam “corporate,” a sinful label in the grunge era. Additionally, Cobain famously told the Chicago Tribune: “I find it offensive to be lumped in with bands like Pearl Jam”. Nirvana fans started to dislike Pearl Jam and it’s fans.
Then at the 1992 Video Music Awards, while Eric Clapton performed “Tears in Heaven” that rare moment we all wish happened more often, happened. Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder embraced and slow danced with one another backstage. Eric Clapton went through the most difficult situation that any parent could ever go through. He channeled his pain and wrote one of the most beautifully iconic songs of my lifetime. The Cobain-Vedder feud seemed so trivial that they embraced and for a few seconds put aside all their issues.
There is a lot of divisiveness on social media, in the media, in the classrooms, at work, on the streets and at the dinner tables. Most of it is trivial. Not all but most. We need a coming together moment in this country and music may be the solution. Artists have the power to bring us together, to have those who disagree, embrace. Even if it’s for a few seconds. Artists have the ability to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak. They connect us to their own adversity and aim to put everything we are going through in perspective.
As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest”. We need a coming together and we need musicians, many of whom are heading out on tours this spring and summer, to make their best efforts to make it happen for the sake of our country.