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Cambel McLaughlin thought he was being punked. An unapologetic opponent of lockdowns and Covid-19 vaccine skeptic — he is, as he puts it, “pro-medical choice”— the 27-year-old Brit is founder of Jam for Freedom, a group of U.K. musicians that plays for free in public spaces, spreading the anti-lockdown word and sometimes singing songs with lyrics like “You can stick your poison vaccine up your arse.” For their efforts, Jam for Freedom are often hassled by police, and McLaughlin himself says he was arrested for what he calls “breach of Covid regulations” during one show.

Cambel McLaughlin thought he was being punked. An unapologetic opponent of lockdowns and Covid-19 vaccine skeptic — he is, as he puts it, “pro-medical choice”— the 27-year-old Brit is founder of Jam for Freedom, a group of U.K. musicians that plays for free in public spaces, spreading the anti-lockdown

This past spring, the car the group used to transport its gear was rendered nearly unusable after an accident, so McLaughlin started a GoFundMe page to help pay for transportation, gas, and legal fees. And one day this past spring, he was shocked to see a £1,000 donation on the site from Eric Clapton.

“I’m, like, this could be fake,” McLaughlin recalls. But when McLaughlin emailed the account listed with the donation, he received a text from the 76-year-old British guitar hero himself. “It was something complimentary, along the lines of, ‘Hey, it’s Eric — great work you’re doing,’ ” McLaughlin says. The two later talked by phone, and before McLaughlin knew it, Clapton offered his family’s white, six-person VW Transporter van as a temporary replacement for Jam for Freedom’s wheels. He also gave them a chunk of money (McLaughlin declines to say how much) to buy a new van — and said he might even sit in with the group at some point. Thanks to Clapton’s assistance, Jam for Freedom are now free to spread their message all over the U.K.

In the past, Clapton has been reluctant to voice his political views. As he told Rolling Stone in 1968, “What I’m doing now is just my way of thinking, but if it gets into a paper somewhere, people will say that what I’m saying is the way they ought to think. Which is wrong, because I’m only a musician. If they dig my music, that’s great, but they don’t have to know what’s going on in my head.”

But in recent months Clapton has himself become a leading vaccine skeptic, part of a community that Dr. Anthony Fauci has said is “part of the problem — because you’re allowing yourself to be a vehicle for the virus to be spreading to someone else.” And while never explicitly condemning the lockdown, he’s said “live music might never recover” and joined Van Morrison for three songs that amount to lockdown protest anthems. By way of a friend’s social media account, he’s also detailed what he called his “disastrous” experience after receiving two AstraZeneca shots (“propaganda said the vaccine was safe for everyone,” he wrote).

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