Eric Clapton Claims 'Cocaine' Is an Anti-Drug Song

Blues Icon Adds Song Back to Live Performances

Eric Clapton
Clapton Says Song Is Anti-Drug. © Getty Images


Claiming that it has always been an anti-drug song, Eric Clapton returned the classic hit "Cocaine" to the playlist for his live performances in 2006. Clapton, who established the Crossroads Centre addiction recovery center on the Caribbean island of Antigua, stopped playing the song after he began recovery for addiction and alcoholism.

"I thought that it might be giving the wrong message to people who were in the same boat as me," Clapton told reporters.

But the blues guitar playing icon changed his mind about playing the song and explained his reasoning.

"But further investigation proved ... the song, if anything, if it's not even ambivalent, it's an anti-drug song. And so I thought that might be a better way to do it, to approach it from a more positive point of view. And carry on performing it as not a pro-drug song, but just as a reality check about what it does," Clapton told the reporter.

"It's one of those songs that you can take it any way you like," Clapton said. "But it very clearly says in the opening verse, `If you wanna get down, down on the ground,' I mean, that's, I think, the focal point of the song. That's what the song's about, is that, you know, there's a price." Clapton also admitted that he missed playing the song.

Clapton further modified the song in performances, adding the lyric, "that dirty cocaine" to convey the negative effects of the drug.

Is "Cocaine" an Anti-Drug Song?

But is the song really an anti-drug song and is it perceived as such by loyal Slowhand fans? That is a matter for debate. When the "Slowhand" album was released in 1977, the song was considered to be a countercultural one that was not obviously anti-drug. Instead, many saw it as an influence in making the use of the drug more mainstream.

The drug reached a high level of use in the 1970s and 1980s, peaking in the 1990s. Use among teens has declined since 2006 but remains at 1.5 million current (past-month) cocaine users aged 12 or older.

Following are the lyrics to "Cocaine" written by J.J. Cale. Read them and decide for yourself.

If you wanna hang out you've got to take her out; cocaine.
If you wanna get down, down on the ground; cocaine.
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie; cocaine.

If you got bad news, you wanna kick them blues; cocaine.
When your day is done and you wanna run; cocaine.
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie; cocaine.

If your thing is gone and you wanna ride on; cocaine.
Don't forget this fact, you can't get it back; cocaine.
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie; cocaine.

Popular Song in the 1980s

The song "Cocaine" was written and recorded in 1976 by J.J. Cale, but did not become famous until Clapton recorded a cover of it for his 1977 album "Slowhand." The song was released as a single in 1980. It was featured on Clapton's live album, "Just One Night" also in 1980.

The song has also be featured in three movies, Starsky & Hutch (2004), Lord of War (2005) and Bad News Bears (2005).


Cocaine. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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