Eric Clapton - Musician
Created | Updated Jul 23, 2009
Eric Clapton is considered by many to be one of the greatest guitarists to have graced the Earth. He said that he is, and always will be, a blues guitarist, but he hasn't really played that much blues over his career. During the years 1967 to about 1991 he pretty much concentrated on rock, with smatterings of blues here and there. The Unplugged album heralded Clapton's return to blues and 1994's From The Cradle sealed his fate. Eric Clapton was once again, and always will be, a blues guitarist.
Eric Clapton was born on 30 March, 1945, in Ripley, England. It is rumoured that he didn't pick up a guitar (ie, learn it properly) until he was 17 years old. This is almost certainly untrue. What is true is that he used to design stained glass windows, and was once Mick Jagger's stand-in at a night-club.
Eric wanted to be in a band, he was serious about music and he joined the Yardbirds in 1963. That was Clapton's big break. The Yardbirds were the first bluesy group to hit the charts. By 1965 Clapton thought that the Yardbirds were being too commercial, more into money than music, so he quit. He joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, sharing a house with Mr Mayall. He was working on and off with the Bluesbreakers during this time (1965 - 1966) - sometimes he was with the band and sometimes he wasn't. This was due to the fact that sometimes Eric would want to do his own stuff, and played the Bluesbreakers when it was convenient.
By now Eric had an impressive track record by any musician's standard, but the big one came with Cream, the band founded by ex-Graeme Bond Organisation drummer Ginger Baker. With Baker on drums, Clapton on electric guitar and vocals and Jack Bruce on bass guitar and vocals (also harmonica and piano when required). In their two-and-a-half years as a band they sold a lot of records. Wheels Of Fire was the world's first platinum selling album. Unfortunately the band split up in 1969. The split was due to their manager, Robert Stigwood, milking them for all their cash; Eric wanting his anonymity; and some damaging ego clashes.
1966 - 1979
After the demise of Cream, Clapton formed Blind Faith with Steve Winwood (February 1969). Ginger Baker and Rick Grech got involved too. They released one album and toured Scandinavia and America before they split up in November 1969. So, for the rest of 1969 and early 1970 Eric Clapton played as a sideman in the band Delaney & Bonnie, never once hogging the limelight. He just played, relishing his relative anonymity.
Then came Derek & the Dominoes. Clapton tried to find anonymity again within the group, but everyone loved him too much. Layla, the single, reached number 10 in the British charts in 1970. The band split up in '72.
In 1970 Clapton also released a solo album, but his solo career only really started after he left the Dominoes. In the early '70s Clapton beat his wife, Patti Boyd, and got hooked on heroin and booze. Around 1974 his voice changed, it got so much deeper. In 1979 he toured with Muddy Waters, which reminded him that he ought to stick to playing the blues.
The '80s followed the same routine of touring, albums, singles and everything that goes with being a famous musician. In 1982 he and Patti Boyd got divorced. He married again a few years later, and this heralded a tragedy that would be a turning point for Eric. In 1992 his son Conor fell to his death out of a Manhattan skyrise window. This inspired the album Tears In Heaven, and various other songs including 'When The Circus Left Town', 'My Father's Eyes' and 'Tears In Heaven'. It also demonstrates the resilience and inner strength of Eric Clapton. He has gone through hell - various addictions, his son's death - yet he's somehow come out on top. Other people would generally be expected to snap under that sort of punishment, but Eric has managed to survive it.
In 1994 he won six Grammy Awards. Unplugged was album of the year and 'Tears In Heaven' from that album won song of the year. In 1995 he won another Grammy for From The Cradle as the album of the year, signifying a triumphant return to the good old blues he'd played for most of his youth. He has been in the Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame twice, once as a member of The Yardbirds and then for Cream. A third nod for his solo career would seem inevitable.
- Eric Clapton - August 1970
- Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert - September 1973
- 461 Ocean Boulevard - August 1974
- There's One In Every Crowd - April 1975
- E.C. Was Here - September 1975
- No Reason To Cry - August 1976
- Slowhand - November 1977
- Backless - November 1978
- Just One Night - May 1980
- Another Ticket - February 1981
- Timepeices - March 1982
- Money And Cigarettes - February 1983
- Behind The Sun - March 1985
- August - November 1986
- The Cream Of Eric Clapton - September 1987
- Journeyman - November 1989
- 24 Nights - December 1991
- Unplugged - August 1992
- From The Cradle - September 1994
- Pilgrim - March 1998
- Chronicles - October 1999