Bluesman Robert Cray confirms that he's ended his friendship with Eric Clapton over the anti-lockdown song “Stand and Deliver.”

Cray said he's gone as far as to delete the email conversation that resulted in his cancelation of plans to tour with Clapton, because it upset him so much. He's now part of a growing list of acquaintances who've stopped talking to Clapton over his reaction to the pandemic, the Washington Post reports.

Cray said he was surprised when he read the lyrics to “Stand and Deliver.” Written with Van Morrison, it included the lines: “Do you wanna be a free man / Or do you wanna be a slave? / Do you wanna wear these chains / Until you’re lying in the grave?”

He emailed Clapton to ask if he was comfortable with the slavery references. “His reaction back to me was that he was referring to slaves from, you know, England from way back,” Cray said. Cray became increasingly unhappy with the rest of the conversation, and eventually ended it by saying he wouldn’t take part in their planned tour.

“I’ve told myself, ‘I don’t need to have a conversation,’” Cray added. “I’d just rather not associate with somebody who’s on the extreme and being so selfish. We started playing a music that wasn’t particularly popular to start off with at the time we started playing. We’ve gained some notoriety, and I’m fine with that, but I surely don’t need to hang out with Eric Clapton for that to continue.”

Several Clapton collaborators also discussed his anti-lockdown stance with the Post, and the accusations of racism he’s received over the years. Others expressed bewilderment over the apparent extremity of his position on COVID measures, noting Clapton's generosity on projects like the Crossroads Centre drug facility, which has been worth $20 million to date.

“Nobody I’ve talked to that knows Eric has an answer,” drummer Jim Keltner said. “We’re all in the same boat. We’re all going, ‘I can’t figure it out.’”

In the end, Clapton was described as a cautious, reserved character with whom some never felt close.

“It’s something that he brought upon himself,” Keltner added. “And so I’ve been hoping and praying really, that he can figure out a way to – I don’t say get out of it, but to make it go away somehow, so that it doesn’t ultimately interfere with the music.”

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