2018; “It’s got to get better in a little while”

Eric Clapton, c.1969

A New Year’s reflection on surviving the nightmare (2017) with our dreams (for 2018 and beyond) intact by listening to “God”
By Leonard Rubin

“It’s got to get better in a little while

Like many musicians who grew up in the rockin’, psychedelic late ’60’s – early ’70’s (I was born in 1958), I tend to experience life as a kaleidoscopic stream of musical references.

As a young blues/rock guitarist, my original sources of musical inspiration included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and guitarists BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Duane Allman – but as a kid, my idol was the original rock guitar “GOD”, (as anonymous graffiti in England’s Islington Station famously proclaimed in the 60’s) Eric Clapton – of The Yardbirds, Cream, and later, Blind Faith.

As surely as I will always have the horrific, indelible memories of “where I was” when I (along with nearly everyone else in my generation) experienced the permanent trauma of the tragic murders of each one of my generation’s political heroes, Dr. King, President Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy — the living symbols of hope, and the possibility of the triumph of reason, intelligence and moral courage over ignorance, prejudice and oppression — so will I forever remember where I was at the moment I experienced the JOYOUS shock – and heart-pounding thrill – upon hearing “Layla” for the first time! I was 
in a little pizza joint in Greenwich Village, when it came on the radio that was playing there. I was initially confused by the unfamiliar name of the new band (“Derek and the Dominoes”) — as I immediately recognized the unmistakeable soaring majesty of the lead guitarist: it was the deity himself, Eric Clapton!]

Len Rubin, c. 1973

As the decades unfolded, and we as a nation continued our steep descent into the dark abyss of pervasive corruption, political and cultural cynicism, resignation, alienation, fear, insularity and despair — with this past year unravelling to toxic chaos/the return of an open celebration of unregulated greed, selfishness, venality, chronic dishonesty/ hypocracycallousness, fear-mongering, demagoguery, the abandonment of science for superstition, belligerent bigotry and bellicose xenophobia, and widespread unbridled rage on the Right and arrogant/delusional confidence and disregard on the Left, and the advent of daylight Oligarchy/Kleptocracry, and the popular appeal of the very “Theocratic Fascism” that Frank Zappa (another musical hero of mine) warned about in this 1986 episode of Crossfire:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fam5wRXcoQE&list=PLF194BA9C263544F1 , i
t is frequently tempting for even the most idealistic of us to give out/tune out/give up.

At times such as those, in times such as these, I find I am still able to recover my resolve and regenerate my passion and idealism when I listen to the music of – and consider the life and times of – my childhood hero, Eric Clapton — who is thankfully, miraculously still with us!

For any of you who has not read his transcendently powerful and universally inspiring autobiography (“Clapton”), I would urge you to immediately get a hold of a copy, find a comfortable chair and dig in — if for no other reason than it will rekindle an enchantment 
with and wonder at the human spirit! Classic Greek and Shakespearian tragedies bow in front of this man’s life story! Against the odds, he survived the incredible pressures that came along with his early success, meteoric superlative fame and it’s accompanying unrelenting demands at such a young age — pressures and demands which claimed the lives of many of his contemporaries; he survived multiple, prolonged battles with internal demons, substance abuse and addiction — to eventually emerge clean and sober and sane — and with his talent, inspiration and abilities somehow intact; he finally found – hacked – a path out of the jungle, and in middle age, to a healthy relationship with himself, a new beautiful wife and a family of his own,…

…and then, at age 46 — in 1991, tragically, randomly, unfathomably that was all shattered — by the sudden loss of his priceless, beautiful, beloved innocent Conor – his 4-1/2 year-old son – in a bizarre-yet-mundanely-stupid accident!

That would surely have been, understandably, the end of any ordinary man.

And yet, somehow, Eric once again reached down into the depths of his unique, seemingly bottomless soul and found strength and inspiration in his despair — inspiration which resulted in the bittersweet hit (and 1993 Grammy Awards-sweeping) song, “Tears in Heaven”. [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U4yDkvRjvs ]

And by no means did he stop there – going on to pen wonderful song after song, release a slew of new critically-acclaimed recordings, mount a seemingly endless series of grueling road tours and sold-out high-profile special events around the world, sharing his creative genius and soul-nourishing artistry with millions of old-timers like myself, as well second and now, yes, THIRD generation fans — all the while continuing his annual amazing special charitable all-star Crossroads concert series/boxed DVD set to raise awareness and funds for his non-profit foundation devoted to battling the very addictions that once held him in their iron grip! Oh yes, and even somehow find the strength of spirit to have more children!


It puts my own family’s trials and tribulations [the early loss of our first home together to a devastating fire; the lead-poisoning of our two young children due to a painting contractor’s ignorance and dishonesty; the loss of what little remained after these tow tragedies of an entire lifetime’s hard-earned “wealth” in the real estate market crash of 2008; the 5 years of painful austerity and sacrifice required to create my wife’s non-profit and the explosive and powerful documentary film she created to tell the forbidden story of lead poisoning in this country (and the subsequent torpedoing of that organization, just as it began to stand on its own, by a bogus and “annonymous” complaint) — and the continuing smear campaign ever since of relentless, recycled, completely baseless allegations and negative speculative news stories (to which lawyers always insist we should not respond!) attacking my wife’s conduct and integrity, impugning her
 reputation and burdening  her continued advocacy work (and her movie and the threat it poses to the unfettered power and wealth of those at the helms of the transnational corporations that continue to profit at the cost of the health and collective IQ of our nation’s children/future citizenry); the loss of her mother and my father in the past 18 months too; our children’s difficult daily struggle with the torment of the childhood-stealing, soul-crushing lifelong effects of acute lead-poisoning (to this day, Portland Public Schools has not been able or willing to find any workable accommodations for their resultant special needs, so they are both currently being home-schooled); the depression resulting from having to interrupt my own professional trajectory/career/life’s work and put it on an indefinite “back burner” due to the more-than-full-time need to manage our permanently handicapped children and support my wife in her struggle through these excruciating/exhausting and all-time-and-money-consuming times spent defending her advocacy, while continuing her mission to educate and serve the thousands of parents that continue to call and e-mail her for help and information at all hours every single day] – in much-needed perspective: It.Could.Be.So.Much.Worse!

Here’s Eric’s song whose title was the inspiration for this post — and whose refrain has sustained me so often this past year [from the Live At The Filmore recording by Derek and the Dominoes]!:


Got To Get Better In A Little While

Don’t you know what’s wrong with me?
I’m seeing things I don’t want to see.
Sniffing things that ain’t no good for me.
I’m going down fast, won’t you say a prayer for me?

It’s got to get better in a little while.
It’s got to get better in a little while.
It’s got to get better in a little while.
It’s got to get better in a little while.

The sun’s got to shine on my guitar someday.
Revolution all across the land.
Just like Sly, you got to take a stand.
Please don’t hurt nobody, don’t knock them down;
Give them a helping hand to get off the ground.

It’s got to get better in a little while.
It’s got to get better in a little while.
It’s got to get better in a little while.
It’s got to get better in a little while.

Still one thing that you can do;
Fall down on your knees and pray.
I know the Lord’s gonna answer you.
Don’t do it tomorrow, do it today.

It’s got to get better in a little while.
It’s got to get better in a little while.
It’s got to get better in a little while.
It’s got to get better in a little while.

We fervently wish each and every one of you a MUCH better, healthier, happier, more peaceful and prosperous New Year!

P.S. As a holiday bonus, here is the master in 2013 — at the ripe old age of SIXTY-EIGHT — performing the tune live!:



Len Rubin
Tamara’s Husband

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