Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE (born 30 March 1945) is an English blues-rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, and composer. Clapton has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Yardbirds, of Cream, and as a solo performer, being the only person ever to be inducted three times. Often viewed by critics and fans alike as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Clapton was ranked fourth in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and #53 on their list of the Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Although Clapton has varied his musical style throughout his career, it has always remained grounded in the blues. Yet, in spite of this focus, he is credited as an innovator in a wide variety of genres. These include blues-rock (with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and the Yardbirds) and psychedelic rock (with Cream). Clapton's chart success was not limited to the blues, with chart-toppers in Delta Blues (Me and Mr. Johnson), pop ("Change the World") and reggae (Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff"). Two of his most successful recordings were the hit love song "Layla", which he played with the band Derek and the Dominos, and Robert Johnson's "Crossroads", which has been his staple song since his days with Cream.
Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England, the son of 17-year-old Patricia Molly Clapton and Edward Walter Fryer, a 25-year-old soldier from Montreal, Quebec. Fryer shipped off to war prior to Clapton's birth and then returned to Canada. Clapton grew up with his grandmother, Rose, and her second husband Jack, believing they were his parents and that his mother was his older sister. Their surname was Clapp, which has given rise to the widespread but erroneous belief that Clapton's real surname is Clapp (Reginald Cecil Clapton is the name of Rose's first husband, Eric Clapton's maternal grandfather. Years later, his mother married another Canadian soldier, moved to Canada and left young Eric with his grandparents in distant Surrey.
Clapton received an acoustic Hoyer guitar, made in Germany, for his 13th birthday, but found learning the steel-stringed instrument very difficult and nearly gave up because the action of the guitar was horrible. Despite his frustrations, he was influenced by the blues from an early age and practiced long hours to learn chords and copy the music of blues artists that he listened to on his Grundig Cub tape recorder.
After leaving school in 1961, Clapton studied at the Kingston College of Art but was dismissed at the end of the academic year because his focus remained on music rather than art. Around this time Clapton began busking around Kingston, Richmond and the West End of London. When he was 17 years old Clapton joined his first band, an early British R&B group, called "The Roosters". He stayed with this band from January through August 1963. In October of that year, Clapton did a brief seven gig stint with Casey Jones & The Engineers.
The Yardbirds and the Bluesbreakers
Main articles: The Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
In 1963, Clapton joined The Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band, and stayed with them until March 1965. Synthesizing influences from Chicago blues and leading blues guitarists such as Buddy Guy, Freddie King and B. B. King, Clapton forged a distinctive style and rapidly became one of the most talked-about guitarists in the British music scene. The band initially played Chess/Checker/Vee-Jay blues numbers and began to attract a large cult following when they took over the Rolling Stones' residency at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond. They toured England with American bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson II; a joint LP, recorded in December 1963, was issued belatedly under both their names, in 1965. In March 1965, just as Clapton left the band, the Yardbirds had their first major hit, "For Your Love", on which Clapton played guitar.
It was during this time period that Clapton's Yardbirds rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja recalled that whenever Clapton broke a guitar string during a concert, he would stay on stage and replace it. The English audiences would wait out the delay by doing what is called a "slow handclap". Clapton told his official biographer, Ray Coleman, that, "My nickname of 'Slowhand' came from Giorgio Gomelsky. He coined it as a good pun. He kept saying I was a fast player, so he put together the slow handclap phrase into Slowhand as a play on words".
Still obstinately dedicated to blues music, Clapton was strongly offended by the Yardbirds' new pop-oriented direction, partly because, "For Your Love", had been written by pop songwriter-for-hire Graham Gouldman, who had also written hits for teen pop outfit Herman's Hermits and harmony pop band The Hollies. Clapton recommended fellow guitarist Jimmy Page as his replacement; but, Page was at that time unwilling to relinquish his lucrative career as a freelance studio musician, so Page in turn recommended Clapton's successor, Jeff Beck. While Beck and Page played together in the Yardbirds, the trio of Beck, Page, and Clapton were never in the group together. However, the trio did appear on the 12-date benefit tour for Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis, as well as on the album Guitar Boogie.
Clapton joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, in April 1965, only to quit a few months later. In the summer of 1965, he left for Greece with a band called The Glands which included his old friend Ben Palmer on piano. In November 1965, he rejoined John Mayall. It was during his second Bluesbreakers' stint that his passionate playing established Clapton's name as the best blues guitarist on the club circuit. Although Clapton gained world fame for his playing on the immensely influential album, Blues Breakers, this album was not released until Clapton had left the Bluesbreakers for good. Having swapped his Fender Telecaster and Vox AC30 amp for a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar and Marshall amplifier, Clapton's sound and playing inspired a well-publicised graffito that deified him with the famous slogan, "Clapton is God". The phrase was spray-painted by an admirer on a wall in an Islington Underground station in the autumn of 1967. The graffiti was captured in a now-famous photograph, in which a dog is urinating on the wall. Clapton is well reported to have been embarrassed by the slogan, saying in The South Bank Show profile of him made in 1987, "I never accepted that I was the greatest guitar player in the world. I always wanted to be the greatest guitar player in the world, but that's an ideal, and I accept it as an ideal". The phrase began to appear in other areas of Islington throughout the mid-60s.
Main article: Cream (band)
Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in July 1966 (to be replaced by Peter Green) and formed Cream, one of the earliest supergroups. Cream was also one of the earliest "power trios", with Jack Bruce on bass (also of Manfred Mann, the Bluesbreakers and the Graham Bond Organization) and Ginger Baker on drums (another member of the GBO). Before the formation of Cream, Clapton was all but unknown in the United States; he left the Yardbirds before "For Your Love" hit the American Top Ten, and had yet to perform there. During his time with Cream, Clapton began to develop as a singer, songwriter and guitarist, though Bruce took most of the lead vocals and wrote the majority of the material with lyricist Pete Brown. Cream's first gig was an unofficial performance at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester on 29 July 1966 before their full debut two nights later at the National Jazz and Blues Festival in Windsor. Cream established its enduring legend with the high-volume blues jamming and extended solos of their live shows.
In early 1967, Clapton's status as Britain's top guitarist was rivaled by the emergence of Jimi Hendrix, an acid rock-infused guitarist who used wailing feedback and effects pedals to create new sounds for the instrument. Hendrix attended a performance of the newly formed Cream at the Central London Polytechnic on 1 October 1966, during which Hendrix sat in on a shattering double-timed version of "Killing Floor". In return, top UK stars including Clapton, Pete Townshend, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles avidly attended Hendrix's early club performances. Hendrix's arrival had an immediate and major effect on the next phase of Clapton's career, although Clapton continued to be recognised in UK music polls as the premier guitarist.
It was with Cream that Clapton first visited the United States. They went to New York in March 1967 for a nine show stand at the RKO Theater. They returned to New York to record Disraeli Gears from 11 May 1967 ??? 15 May 1967. Cream's repertoire varied from soulful pop ("I Feel Free") to lengthy blues-based instrumental jams ("Spoonful") and featured Clapton's searing guitar lines, Bruce's soaring vocals and prominent, fluid bass playing. Baker's powerful, polyrhythmic jazz-influenced drumming backed up Clapton and Bruce, securing Cream as a power trio.
In 28 months, Cream had become a commercial success, selling millions of records and playing throughout the US and Europe. They redefined the instrumentalist's role in rock and were one of the first blues-rock bands to emphasise musical virtuosity and lengthy jazz-style improvisation sessions. Their U.S. hit singles include "Sunshine of Your Love" (#5, 1968), "White Room" (#6, 1968) and "Crossroads" (#28, 1969) ??? a live version of Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues". Although Cream was hailed as one of the greatest groups of its day, and the adulation of Clapton as a guitar hero reached new heights, the supergroup was destined to be short-lived. The legendary infighting between Bruce and Baker and growing tensions among all three members eventually led to Cream's demise. Another significant factor was a strongly critical Rolling Stone review of a concert of the group's second headlining U.S. tour, which affected Clapton profoundly.
Cream's farewell album, "Goodbye", featured live performances recorded at The Forum, Los Angeles, 19 October 1968, and was released shortly after Cream disbanded in 1968; it also featured the studio single "Badge", co-written by Clapton and George Harrison, whom he had met and become friends with after the Beatles had shared a bill with the Clapton-era Yardbirds at the London Palladium. The close friendship between Clapton and Harrison resulted in Clapton's playing on Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from the Beatles' White Album. By all accounts the presence of an outsider, especially of Clapton's calibre, had the effect of bringing peace to the disharmonious band. In the same year of release as the White Album, Harrison released his solo debut Wonderwall Music that became the first of many Harrison solo records to feature Clapton on guitar, who would go largely uncredited due to contractual restraints. The pair would often play live together as each other's guest. A year after Harrison's death in 2001, Clapton helped organise the tribute concert, for which he was musical director.
Since their 1968 breakup, Cream briefly reunited in 1993 to perform at the ceremony inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A full-scale reunion of the legendary trio took place in May 2005, with Clapton, Bruce, and Baker playing four sold-out concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall (the scene of their 1968 farewell shows) and three more at New York's Madison Square Garden that October. Recordings from the London shows were released on CD, LP, and DVD in September/December 2005.
Blind Faith & Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
Main articles: Blind Faith and Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
A desultory spell in a second super group, the short-lived Blind Faith (1969), which was composed of Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood of Traffic and Ric Grech of Family, resulted in one LP and one arena-circuit tour. The super group debuted before 100,000 fans in London's Hyde Park on 7 June 1969. They later performed several dates in Scandinavia and began a sold-out American tour in July before their one and only album was released. The LP Blind Faith was recorded in such haste that side two consisted of just two songs, one of them a 15-minute jam entitled "Do What You Like". The album's jacket image of a topless pubescent girl was deemed controversial in the United States and was replaced by a photograph of the band. Blind Faith dissolved after less than seven months. While Winwood returned to Traffic, by now Clapton was tired of both the spotlight and the hype that had surrounded Cream and Blind Faith.
Clapton decided to step into the background for a time, touring as a sideman with the American group Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, who had been the support act for Blind Faith's U.S. tour. He also played two dates that fall as a member of The Plastic Ono Band, including the famous performance at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in September 1969, released as the album Live Peace in Toronto 1969.
Clapton became close friends with Delaney Bramlett, who encouraged him in his singing and writing. During the summer of 1969, Clapton and Bramlett contributed to the Music From Free Creek "supersession" project. Clapton, appearing as "King Cool" for contractual reasons, played with Dr. John on three songs, joined by Bramlett on one track. Jeff Beck also contributed to the sessions as "A. N. Other", though Clapton and Beck did not play together.
Using the Bramletts' backing group and an all-star cast of session players (including Leon Russell and Stephen Stills), Clapton recorded his first solo album during two brief tour hiatuses, fittingly named Eric Clapton. The album included the Bramlett composition, "Bottle Of Red Wine" and "Let It Rain". It also yielded the unexpected U.S. #18 hit, J. J. Cale's "After Midnight". Clapton went with Delaney and Bonnie from the stage to the studio with the Dominos to record George Harrison's All Things Must Pass in spring 1970. During this busy period, Clapton also recorded with other artists including Dr. John, Leon Russell, Plastic Ono Band, Billy Preston and Ringo Starr.
Derek and the Dominos
Main article: Derek and the Dominos
27 second sample of the song "Layla", as performed by Derek and the Dominos
Taking over Delaney & Bonnie's rhythm section???Bobby Whitlock (keyboards, vocals), Carl Radle (bass) and Jim Gordon (drums)???Clapton formed a new band which was intended to counteract the "star" cult that had grown up around him and show that he could be a member of an ensemble. The band was called "Eric Clapton and Friends" at first, and the name "Derek and the Dominos" was an accident, which occurred when the band's provisional name of "Eric and the Dynamos" was misread as Derek and the Dominos. Clapton's biography, though, argues that Ashton told Clapton to call the band "Del and the Dominos", Del being his nickname for Clapton. Del and Eric were combined and the final name became "Derek and the Dominos".
Clapton's close friendship with George Harrison had brought him into contact with Harrison's wife Pattie Boyd, with whom he became deeply infatuated. When she spurned his advances, Clapton's unrequited affections prompted most of the material for the Dominos' album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. This album contained the monster-hit single, love song "Layla", inspired by the classical poet of Persian literature, Nezami Ganjavi's The Story of Layla and Majnun, a copy of which his friend Ian Dallas had given him. The book moved Clapton profoundly as it was the tale of a young man who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful, unavailable woman and who went crazy because he could not marry her.
Working at Criteria Studios in Miami with Atlantic Records producer Tom Dowd, who had worked with Clapton on Cream's Disraeli Gears, the band recorded a double-album. The two parts of "Layla" were recorded in separate sessions: the opening guitar section was recorded first, and for the second section, laid down several months later, drummer Jim Gordon composed and played the elegiac piano part. The Layla LP was actually recorded by a five-piece version of the group, thanks to the unforeseen inclusion of guitarist Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band. A few days into the Layla sessions, Dowd???who was also producing the Allmans???invited Clapton to an Allman Brothers outdoor concert in Miami. The two guitarists met first onstage, then played all night in the studio and became friends. Duane first added his slide guitar to "Tell the Truth" on 28 August as well as "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out". In four days, the five-piece Dominos recorded "Key to the Highway", "Have You Ever Loved a Woman", and "Why Does Love Got to be So Sad". When September came around, Duane briefly left the sessions for gigs with his own band, and the four-piece Dominos recorded "I Looked Away", "Bell Bottom Blues", and "Keep on Growing". Duane returned to record "I am Yours", "Anyday", and "It's Too Late". On the 9th, they recorded Hendrix's "Little Wing" and the title track. The following day, the final track, "Thorn Tree in the Garden" was recorded.
The album was heavily blues-influenced and featured a combination of the twin guitars of Allman and Clapton, with Allman's incendiary slide-guitar a key ingredient of the sound. Many critics would later notice that Clapton played best when in a band composed of dual guitars; working with another guitarist kept him from getting "sloppy and lazy and this was undeniably the case with Duane Allman." It showcased some of Clapton's strongest material to date, as well as arguably some of his best guitar playing, with Whitlock also contributing several superb numbers, and his powerful, soul-influenced voice.
Tragedy dogged the group throughout its brief career. During the sessions, Clapton was devastated by news of the death of Jimi Hendrix; eight days previously the band had cut a blistering version of "Little Wing" as a tribute to him which was added to the album. On 17 September 1970, one day before Hendrix's death, Clapton had purchased a left-handed Stratocaster that he had planned to give to Hendrix as a birthday gift. Adding to Clapton's woes, the Layla album received only lukewarm reviews upon release. The shaken group undertook a U.S. tour without Allman, who had returned to the Allman Brothers Band. Despite Clapton's later admission that the tour took place amidst a veritable blizzard of drugs and alcohol, it resulted in the surprisingly strong live double album In Concert. The band had recorded several tracks for a second album in London during the spring of 1971 (five of which were released on the Eric Clapton box-set Crossroads), but the results were mediocre.
Tom Dowd and Duane Allman were not there to help them and Derek and the Dominos soon disintegrated messily in London. Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident on 29 October 1971. Although Radle would remain Clapton's bass player until the summer of 1979 (Radle died in May 1980 from the effects of alcohol and narcotics), the split between Clapton and Whitlock was apparently a bitter one, and it was not until 2003 that they worked together again (Clapton guested on Whitlock's appearance on the Later with Jools Holland show). Another tragic footnote to the Dominos story was the fate of drummer Jim Gordon, who was an undiagnosed schizophrenic and years later murdered his mother during a psychotic episode. Gordon was confined to 16-years-to-life imprisonment, later being moved to a mental institution, where he remains today.
Eric Clapton in Barcelona, 1974
Clapton's career successes in the 1970s were in stark contrast to his personal life, which was troubled by romantic longings and drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to his (temporarily) unrequited and intense attraction to Pattie Boyd, he withdrew from recording and touring to isolation in his Surrey, England residence. There he nursed his heroin addiction, resulting in a career hiatus interrupted only by the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971 (where he passed out on stage, was revived, and continued the show). In January 1973, The Who's Pete Townshend organised a comeback concert for Clapton at London's Rainbow Theatre aptly titled the "Rainbow Concert" to help Clapton kick his addiction. Clapton would return the favour by playing 'The Preacher' in Ken Russell's film version of The Who's Tommy in 1975; his appearance in the film (performing "Eyesight to the Blind") is notable as he is clearly wearing a fake beard in some shots, the result of deciding to shave off his real beard after the initial takes in an attempt to force the director to remove his earlier scene from the movie and leave the set.
In 1974, now partnered with Pattie (they would not actually marry until 1979) and no longer using heroin (although starting to drink heavily), Clapton put together a more low-key touring band that included Radle, Miami guitarist George Terry, keyboardist Dick Sims, drummer Jamie Oldaker and vocalists Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy (better known as Marcella Detroit of 1980s pop duo Shakespears Sister). With this band Clapton recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974), an album with an emphasis on more compact songs and fewer guitar solos; the cover-version of "I Shot The Sheriff" was Clapton's first #1 hit and was important in bringing reggae and the music of Bob Marley to a wider audience. The 1975 album There's One in Every Crowd continued the trend of 461. The album's original title The World's Greatest Guitar Player (There's One In Every Crowd) was changed before pressing, as it was felt its ironic intention would be misunderstood. The band toured the world and subsequently released the 1975 live LP, E.C. Was Here. Clapton continued to release albums and toured regularly. Highlights of the era include No Reason to Cry, whose collaborators included Bob Dylan and The Band, and Slowhand, which featured "Wonderful Tonight", another song inspired by Pattie Boyd, and a second J.J. Cale cover, "Cocaine".
During an August 1976 concert in Birmingham, Clapton provoked a controversy that has continued to follow him when he made pointed remarks from the stage in support of British politician Enoch Powell's efforts to restrict immigration to the UK (see below).
Clapton playing live; the Eishalle theater of Wetzikon, Switzerland, 19 June 1977
In 1981, Clapton was invited by producer Martin Lewis to appear at the Amnesty International benefit The Secret Policeman's Other Ball. Clapton accepted the invitation and teamed up with Jeff Beck to perform a series of duets???reportedly their first-ever billed stage collaboration. Three of the performances were released on the album of the show and one of the songs was featured in the film of the show. The performances heralded a return to form and prominence for Clapton in the new decade. Many factors had influenced Clapton's comeback, including his "deepening commitment to Christianity", to which he had converted prior to his heroin addiction.
In 1984, he performed on Pink Floyd member Roger Waters' solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking and went on tour with Waters following the release of the album. Since then Waters and Clapton have had a close relationship. In 2005 they performed together for the Tsunami Relief Fund. In 2006 they performed at the Highclere Castle, in aid of the Countryside Alliance, playing two set pieces of "Wish You Were Here" and "Comfortably Numb". As Clapton recovered from his addictions, his album output continued in the 1980s, including two produced with Phil Collins, 1985's Behind the Sun, which produced the hits "Forever Man" and "She's Waiting", and 1986's August.
August, a polished release that was suffused with Collins's trademark drum and horn sound, became Clapton's biggest seller in the UK to date and matched his highest chart position, number 3. The album's first track, the hit "It's In The Way That You Use It", was also featured in the Tom Cruise-Paul Newman movie The Color of Money. The horn-peppered "Run" echoed Collins' "Sussudio" and rest of the producer's Genesis/solo output, while "Tearing Us Apart" (with Tina Turner) and the bitter "Miss You" echoed Clapton's angry sound. This rebound kicked off Clapton's two-year period of touring with Collins and their August collaborates, bassist Nathan East and keyboard player/songwriter Greg Phillinganes. While on tour for August, 2 concert videos were recorded of the four-man band, Eric Clapton Live from Montreux and Eric Clapton and Friends. Despite his own earlier battles with alcoholism, Clapton remade "After Midnight" as a single and a promotional track for the Michelob beer brand, which had also marketed earlier songs by Collins and Steve Winwood. Clapton won a British Academy Television Award for his collaboration with Michael Kamen on the score for the 1985 BBC television thriller serial Edge of Darkness. In 1989, Clapton released Journeyman, an album which covered a wide range of styles including blues, jazz, soul and pop. Collaborators included George Harrison, Phil Collins, Daryl Hall, Chaka Khan, Mick Jones, David Sanborn and Robert Cray.
In 1984, while still married to Pattie Boyd, Clapton began a year-long relationship with Yvonne Kelly. The two had a daughter, Ruth, in January 1985. Clapton and Kelly did not make any public announcement about the birth of their daughter, and she was not publicly revealed as his child until 1991. Boyd criticized Clapton because he had not revealed the child's existence.
Hurricane Hugo hit Montserrat in 1989 and this resulted in the closure of Sir George Martin and John Burgess's recording studio AIR Montserrat, where Kelly was Managing Director. Kelly and Ruth moved back to England, and the myth of Eric's secret daughter began as a result of newspaper articles published at the time. Clapton and Boyd divorced in 1988 following his affair with Italian model Lori Del Santo, who gave birth to their son Conor on August 21, 1986. Boyd herself was never able to conceive children, despite attempts at in vitro fertilization. Their divorce was granted on grounds of "infidelity and unreasonable behaviour."
The early 1990s saw tragedy enter Clapton's life again. On 27 August 1990, fellow guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was touring with Clapton, and two members of their road crew were killed in a helicopter crash between concerts. Then, on 20 March 1991, Conor, who was four years of age, died when he fell from the 53rd-story window of his mother's friend's New York City apartment, landing on the roof of an adjacent four-story building. Clapton's grief was expressed in the song "Tears in Heaven", which was co-written by Will Jennings. He received a total of six Grammy Awards that year for the single "Tears in Heaven" and his Unplugged album.
In 1996 Clapton had a relationship with singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow. They remain friends, and Clapton appeared as a guest on Sheryl Crow's Central Park Concert. The duo performed a Cream hit single "White Room". Later, Clapton and Crow performed an alternate version of "Tulsa Time" with other guitar legends at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in June 2007.
In 1999 Clapton, then 54, met 23-year-old store clerk Melia McEnery (from Columbus, Ohio) in Los Angeles while working on an album with B. B. King. They married on January 1, 2002 at St Mary Magdalen church in Clapton's birthplace, Ripley, and as of 2005 have three daughters, Julie Rose (June 13, 2001), Ella May (January 14, 2003), and Sophie Belle (February 1, 2005). He wrote the song "Three Little Girls", featured on his 2006 album The Road to Escondido, about the contentment he has found in his family life at home with them.
1990s and 2000s
In October 1992, Clapton was among the dozens of artists performing at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert. Recorded at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the live two-disk CD/DVD captured a show full of celebrities performing classic Dylan songs, before ending with a few performances from Bob Dylan himself. Despite the presence of 10 other guitarists on stage, including George Harrison, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn, Steve Cropper, Tom Petty, and Dylan, Clapton played the lead on a nearly 7-minute version of Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", one of Clapton's early hit singles, as part of the finale.
While Unplugged featured Clapton playing acoustic guitar, his 1994 album From the Cradle contained new versions of old blues standards highlighted by his electric guitar playing. Clapton's 1996 recording of the Wayne Kirkpatrick/Gordon Kennedy/Tommy Sims tune "Change the World" (featured in the soundtrack of the movie Phenomenon) won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1997, the same year he recorded Retail Therapy (an album of electronic music with Simon Climie under the pseudonym TDF). The following year, Clapton released the album Pilgrim, the first record featuring brand new material for almost a decade. Clapton finished the twentieth century with collaborations with Carlos Santana and B. B. King.
Following the release of the 2001 record Reptile, Eric performed "Layla" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at the Party at the Palace in 2002. On November 29 of that year the Concert for George was held at the Royal Albert Hall, a tribute to George Harrison who had died a year earlier of cancer. Clapton was a performer, and also the musical director. The concert featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Ravi Shankar, and others. In 2004, Clapton released two albums packed full of covers by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, Me and Mr. Johnson and Sessions for Robert J. The same year Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Clapton #53 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".
Clapton at Tsunami Relief Cardiff
On 22 January 2005, Clapton performed in the Tsunami Relief Concert held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, in aid of the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. In May 2005, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker reunited as Cream for a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Concert recordings were released on CD and DVD. Later, Cream performed in New York at Madison Square Garden. Back Home, Clapton's first album of new original material in nearly five years, was released on Reprise Records on 30 August. In 2006 he invited Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II to join his band for his 2006-2007 world tour. Trucks is the third member of The Allman Brothers Band to support Clapton, the second being pianist/keyboardist Chuck Leavell who appeared on the MTV Unplugged album and the 24 Nights performances at the Royal Albert Hall theatre of London (RAH) in 1990 and 1991, as well as Clapton's 1992 U.S. tour.
On 20 May, 2006, Clapton performed with Queen drummer Roger Taylor and former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters at the Highclere Castle, in support of the Countryside Alliance. On 13 August 2006, Clapton made a guest appearance at the Bob Dylan concert in Columbus, Ohio, playing guitar on three songs in Jimmie Vaughan's opening act. A collaboration with guitarist J. J. Cale, titled The Road to Escondido, was released on 7 November 2006, featuring Derek Trucks and Billy Preston. The 14-track CD was produced and recorded by the duo in August 2005 in California. The chemistry between Trucks and Clapton convinced him to invite The Derek Trucks Band to open for Clapton's set on his 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival, with Trucks remaining on set afterward, performing with Clapton's band throughout his performances, and embarking on a world tour with him.
The rights to Clapton's official memoirs, written by Christopher Simon Sykes and published in 2007, were sold at the 2005 Frankfurt Book Fair for USD $4 million.
Eric Clapton playing live in Hyde Park, London on 28 June 2008
According to Rolling Stone Magazine, Clapton is currently working on an album with Robbie Robertson. Robertson performed with Clapton at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, where they played their version of the Bo Diddley song "Who Do You Love". On 28 January 2008 Eric Clapton was announced as the headliner for the Saturday night of Hard Rock Calling 2008 in London's Hyde Park (previously Hyde Park Calling) with support from Sheryl Crow & John Mayer. On February 26, 2008, it was reported that North Korean officials had invited Clapton to play a concert in the communist state. According to reports, Clapton's management received the invitation and passed it on to the singer, who has agreed in principle and suggested it take place sometime in 2009. Clapton's management, however, have so far refused to confirm if this is the case. If the invitation does exist, and Clapton accepts, he will be the first western rock star to play there.
Clapton's 2008 Summer Tour began on the 3rd of May at the Ford Amphitheatre,Tampa Bay, Florida, and then moved to Canada, Ireland, England, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Poland, Germany and Monaco.
Eric Clapton (4th from left) and his band live in 2007
In 2007, Clapton learned more about his father, a Canadian soldier who left the UK after the war. Although Clapton's grandparents eventually told him the truth about his parentage, he only knew that his father's name was Edward Fryer. This was a source of disquiet for Clapton, as witnessed by his 1998 song "My Father's Eyes". A Montreal journalist named Michael Woloschuk researched Canadian Armed Forces service records and tracked down members of Fryer's family, finally piecing together the story. He learned that Clapton's father was Edward Walter Fryer, born 21 March 1920, in Montreal and died in Newmarket, Ontario. Fryer was a musician (piano and saxophone) and a lifelong drifter, who was married several times, had several children and apparently never knew that he was the father of Eric Clapton. Clapton thanked Woloschuk in an encounter at Macdonald Cartier Airport, in Ottawa, Canada.
In February 2008, Clapton performed with his long-time friend Steve Winwood at Madison Square Garden and guested on his recorded single "Dirty City" on Winwood's album Nine Lives. The two former Blind Faith bandmates met again for a series of 14 concerts throughout the United States in June 2009. In September 2008, Clapton performed at a private charity fundraiser for The Countryside Alliance at Floridita in Soho, London, that included such guests as the London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Clapton performing with The Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon Theater
March, 2009 found Clapton performing with The Allman Brothers Band (amongst other notable guests), celebrating their 40th year, in tribute to the late Duane Allman on their annual run at the Beacon Theater, with Butch Trucks commenting that "this performance wasn't the typical Allman Brothers experience, given the number and differences of the guests who were invited to perform. "Eric Clapton taught us!", Trucks said. Songs like "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed", were punctuated with others, such as "The Weight", with Levon Helm; Johnny Winter sitting in on Hendrix's "Red House" and of course, "Layla".
Clapton will be one of the performers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th anniversary concert in Madison Square Garden to be held on October 29 and October 30, 2009. His appearance is scheduled for the October 30 date with other Hall of Fame inductees including U2, Van Morrison and Jeff Beck. Clapton is also set to perform a 2-day show with Jeff Beck at London's O2 Arena in February 13th-14th, 2010.
Clapton has performed songs by myriad artists, which include Bob Marley, JJ Cale, Bo Diddley and Bob Dylan. He cites Freddie King, B.B. King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin both in musical influence and on his style on the guitar. However, he holds no other artist higher in esteem as that of Robert Johnson. In his book, Discovering Robert Johnson (which he co-authored with several other writers), Clapton said of Johnson, that he was "...the most important blues musician who ever lived. He was true, absolutely, to his own vision, and as deep as I have gotten into the music over the last 30 years, I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson. His music remains the most powerful cry that I think you can find in the human voice, really. ... it seemed to echo something I had always felt."
|Discovering Robert Johnson
In 1974, Clapton persuaded Freddie King to sign with RSO, Clapton's record label at the time. He has recorded more than six of J. J. Cale's originals and has put out an album with him. Other artists with whom Clapton has made collaborations include Frank Zappa, B.B. King, George Harrison, Santana, Ringo Starr, Roger Waters, John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band. Clapton also collaborated with singer/songwriter John Mayer on his 2006 album release, Continuum. Mayer cites Clapton in his liner notes Eric Clapton knows I steal from him and is still cool with it. Clapton and Mayer wrote several songs together which have yet to be released. Clapton's influence inspired Mayer to write "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" which loosely holds characteristics of Clapton's musical and fashion style. A popular misconception is that his Slowhand nickname is from his style of guitar playing, either because of his speed or a as joke on the fact that he played slowly. This name was created by The Yardbirds' manager because whenever Clapton broke a string he would disappear backstage whilst the audience would perform a 'Slow-hand' clap until he returned on stage
Some guitarists that Clapton has influenced are: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Duane Allman, Derek Trucks, Eddie Van Halen, John Mayer, and Alex Lifeson.
Clapton; There's One In Every Crowd Tour, on 15 August, 1975 with "Blackie",
San Bernardino, CA Photo: Matt Gibbons
Clapton's choice of electric guitars has been as notable as the man himself, and alongside Hank Marvin, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, Clapton exerted a crucial and widespread influence in popularising particular models of the electric guitar. With the Yardbirds, Clapton played a Fender Telecaster, a Fender Jazzmaster, a double-cutaway Gretsch 6120 and a 1964 Cherry-Red Gibson ES-335. He became exclusively a Gibson player for a period beginning in mid-1965, when he purchased a used Gibson Les Paul Sunburst Standard guitar from a local guitar store in London. Clapton commented on the slim profile of the neck, which would indicate it as a 1960 model.
Early during his stint in Cream, Clapton's first Les Paul Standard was stolen. He continued to play Les Pauls exclusively with Cream (one bought from Andy Summers was almost identical to the stolen guitar) until 1967 when he acquired his most famous guitar in this period, a 1964 Gibson SG. In early 1967, just before their first US appearance, Clapton's SG, Bruce's Fender VI and Baker's drum head were repainted in psychedelic designs created by the visual art collective known as The Fool. In 1968 Clapton bought a Gibson Firebird and started using the 1964 Cherry-Red Gibson ES-335 again. The aforementioned 1964 ES-335 had a storied career. Clapton used it at the last Cream show in November, 1968 as well as with Blind Faith, played sparingly for slide pieces in the 1970s, heard on Hard Times from Journeyman, the Hyde Park live concert of 1996 and the From the Cradle sessions and tour of 1994/95. It was sold for $847,500 at the 2004 auction. Gibson produced a limited run of 250 "Crossroads 335" replicas. The 335 was only the second electric guitar Clapton bought.
Clapton played a refinished red Les Paul on the Beatles' studio recording of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", then gave the guitar to George Harrison. His SG found its way into the hands of George Harrison's friend Jackie Lomax, who subsequently sold it to musician Todd Rundgren for US$500 in 1972. Rundgren restored the guitar and nicknamed it "Sunny", after "Sunshine of Your Love". He retained it until 2000, when he sold it at an auction for US$150,000. At the 1969 Blind Faith concert in Hyde Park, London Clapton played a Fender Custom Telecaster, which was fitted with Brownie's neck.
In late 1969, Clapton made the switch to the Fender Stratocaster. "I had a lot of influences when I took up the Strat. First there was Buddy Holly, and Buddy Guy. Hank Marvin was the first well known person over here in England who was using one, but that wasn't really my kind of music. Steve Winwood had so much credibility, and when he started playing one, I thought, oh, if he can do it, I can do it." First was "Brownie" used during the recording of Eric Clapton which in 1974 became the backup to the most famous of all Clapton's guitars, "Blackie". In November 1970 Eric bought six Fender Stratocasters from the Sho-bud guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee while on tour with the Dominos. He gave one each to George Harrison, Steve Winwood and Pete Townshend.
Clapton assembled the best components of the remaining three to create "Blackie", which was his favourite stage guitar until its retirement in 1985. It was first played live January 13, 1973 at the Rainbow Concert. Clapton called the 1956/57 Strat a "mongrel". On 24 June, 2004, Clapton sold "Blackie" at Christie's Auction House, New York for $959,500 to raise funds for his Crossroads Centre for drug and alcohol addictions. "Brownie" is now on display at the Experience Music Project. The Fender Custom Shop has since produced a limited run of 275 'Blackie' replicas, correct in every detail right down to the 'Duck Brothers' flight case, and artificially aged using Fender's 'Relic' process to simulate years of hard wear. One was presented to Eric upon the model's release.
Another moment involving Clapton's guitars resulted in Hard Rock Caf?©'s unique and gigantic collection of memorabilia. In 1971, Clapton, a regular at the original Hard Rock Caf?© in Hyde Park, gave a signed guitar to the caf?© to designate his favourite bar stool. Pete Townshend, in turn, donated one of his own guitars, with a note attached: "Mine's as good as his! Love, Pete." From there, the collection of memorabilia grew, resulting in Hard Rock Caf?©'s atmosphere. In 1988 Fender honoured Clapton with the introduction of his signature Eric Clapton Stratocaster. These were the first two artist models in the Stratocaster range and since then the artist series has grown to include models inspired both by Clapton's contemporaries such as Rory Gallagher, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, and by those who have influenced him such as Buddy Guy. Clapton uses Ernie Ball Slinky and Super Slinky strings. Clapton has also been honoured with signature-model 000-28EC and 000-42EC acoustic guitars made by the famous American firm of C.F. Martin & Co.. His 1939 000-42 Martin that he played on the Unplugged album sold for $791,500 at auction. Clapton plays a custom 000-ECHF Martin these days.
In 1999, Clapton auctioned off some of his guitar collection to raise more than $5 million for continuing support of the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, which he founded in 1997. The Crossroads Centre is a treatment base for addictive disorders such as drugs and alcohol.In 2004, Clapton organised and participated in the Crossroads Guitar Festival to benefit the Centre. A second guitar auction, including the "Cream" of Clapton's collection ??? as well as guitars donated by famous friends ??? was also held on 24 June 2004. His Lowden acoustic guitar sold for $41,825. The total revenue garnered by this auction at Christie's was US $7,438,624.
Other media appearances
Clapton frequently appears as a guest on the albums of other musicians. For example, he is credited on Dire Straits??? Brothers in Arms album, as he lent Mark Knopfler one of his guitars for the album. He also played lead guitar and synthesizer on The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Roger Waters' debut solo album after leaving Pink Floyd. Other media appearances include the Toots & the Maytals album True Love where he played guitar on the track "Pressure Drop". He can also be heard at the beginning of Frank Zappa's album, "We're Only In It For The Money", repeating the phrase, "Are you hung up?" over and over again. In 1985, Clapton appeared on the charity concert Live Aid in Philadelphia with Phil Collins, Tim Renwick, Chris Stainton, Jamie Oldaker, Marcy Levy, Shaun Murphy and Donald 'Duck' Dunn. In 1988 he played with Dire Straits and Elton John at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute. Two years later, Dire Straits, Clapton and Elton John made a guest appearance in a charity show held at Knebworth. In 1991, Clapton featured on Richie Sambora's album, Stranger In This Town, in a song dedicated to him, 'Mr Bluesman'. In 1992, Clapton contributed guitar and vocals to "Runaway Train", a duet with Elton John on the latter's "The One" album.
On 12 September 1996, Clapton played a party for Armani at New York City's Lexington Armory with Greg Phillinganes, Nathan East and Steve Gadd. Sheryl Crow appeared on one number, performing "Tearing Us Apart", a track from August, which was first performed by Tina Turner during the Prince's Trust All-Star Rock show in 1986. It was Clapton's sole US appearance that year, following the open-air concert held at Hyde Park with Dave Bronze, Andy Fairweather-Low, The Kick Horns, Jerry Portnoy, Chris Stainton and backing vocalists Katie Kissoon and Tessa Niles. The concert was taped and the footage of the Hyde Park concert was released both on VHS video cassette and later, on DVD.
Clapton was featured in the movie version of Tommy, the first full length rock opera written by The Who. The movie version gave Clapton a cameo appearance as the Preacher, performing Sonny Boy Williamson's song, "Eyesight to the Blind". He also appeared in Blues Brothers 2000 as one of the Louisiana Gator Boys. In addition to being in the band, he had a small speaking role. Clapton has also appeared in an advertisement for the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. In March 2007, Clapton appeared in an advertisement for RealNetwork's Rhapsody (online music service).
Eric Clapton was again compared to God's image in the episode Holy Crap! of season two of That '70s Show when the actors playing Eric Forman and Steven Hyde are made by their minister, Pastor Dave, to draw God.
Controversy over remarks on immigration
On 5 August 1976 Clapton provoked an uproar and lingering controversy when he spoke out against increasing immigration during a concert in Birmingham. Visibly intoxicated, Clapton voiced his support of controversial political candidate Enoch Powell and announced on stage that Britain was in danger of becoming a "black colony". Clapton was quoted telling the audience: "I think Enoch's right ... we should send them all back. Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!" (the latter phrase was at the time a British National Front slogan). This incident, along with some explicitly pro-fascism remarks made around the same time by David Bowie, were the main catalysts for the creation of Rock Against Racism.
In an interview from October 1976 with Sounds Magazine, Clapton remarked: "I thought it was quite funny actually. I don't know much about politics. I don't even know if it would be good or bad for him to get in. I don't even know who the Prime Minister is now. I just don't know what came over me that night. It must have been something that happened in the day but it came out in this garbled thing...I thought the whole thing was like Monty Python. There's this rock group playing onstage and the singer starts talking about politics. It's so stupid. Those people who paid their money sittin' listening to this madman dribbling on and the band meanwhile getting fidgety thinking 'oh dear'."
In a 2004 interview with Uncut (magazine), Clapton referred to Powell as "outrageously brave", and stated that his "feeling about this has not changed", because the UK is still "... inviting people in as cheap labour and then putting them in ghettos." In 2004, Clapton told an interviewer for Scotland on Sunday, "There's no way I could be a racist. It would make no sense". In his 2007 autobiography, Clapton called himself "deliberately oblivious to it all" and wrote, "I had never really understood or been directly affected by racial conflict... when I listened to music, I was disinterested in where the players came from or what colour their skin was. Interesting, then, that 10 years later, I would be labelled a racist... Since then, I have learnt to keep my opinions to myself. Of course, it might also have had something to do with the fact that Pattie had just been leered at by a member of the Saudi royal family." In a December 2007 interview with Melvin Bragg on The South Bank Show, Clapton reiterated his support for Enoch Powell and again denied that Powell's views were racist.
Awards and honours
Award / Recognition
Presented the Silver Clef Award from Princess Michael of Kent for outstanding contribution to British music.
Presented with BAFTA for Best Original Television Music for Score of Edge of Darkness with Michael Kamen.
"Tears In Heaven" won three Grammy awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Male Pop Vocal Performance. Clapton also won Album of the Year and Best Rock Vocal Performance for "Unplugged" and Best Rock Song for "Layla".
Awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to music.
Inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the third time, this time as a solo artist. He was earlier inducted as a member of the bands Cream and The Yardbirds.
Promoted to CBE, receiving the award from the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace as part of the New Year's Honours list.
Awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (as a member of Cream)
Clapton's music in film and TV
Mean Streets (1973) ??? "I Looked Away"
The Hit (1984) ??? Score
Back to the Future (1985) ??? Heaven Is One Step Away
Edge of Darkness (1985) - Soundtrack
The Color of Money (1986 film) ??? "It's In The Way That You Use It"
SpaceCamp (1986 film) ??? "Forever Man" plays when Tate Donovan's character arrives at the Space Camp.
The German car manufacturer Opel and Vauxhall in the UK used the guitar riff of Clapton's Layla in its advertising campaign throughout in 1987-95.
Lethal Weapon (1987) - Soundtrack with Michael Kamen
Lethal Weapon 2 (1988) ??? "Knockin' On Heaven's Door"
Goodfellas (1990) ??? "Layla" and "Sunshine of Your Love" .
Rush (1991)_ Clapton wrote the score
Wayne's World (1992) ??? "Loving your Loving"
Peter's Friends (1992) ??? "Give Me Strength"
Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) Clapton contributed to the score and co-wrote and co-performed the song "It's Probably Me" with Sting and "Runaway Train" with Elton John.
True Lies (1994) ??? "Sunshine of Your Love"
Twister (1996 film) (1996) ??? "Motherless Child"
Phenomenon (1996 film) ??? "Change the World"
The Van (1996) (Soundtrack)
Patch Adams (film) (1998)- "Let It Rain"
Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) ??? "Pilgrim"
City Of Angels (1998) ??? "Further On Up The Road"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series) (1998) ??? Band Candy, Forever ??? "Tales of Brave Ulysses"
Runaway Bride (1999) ??? Blue Eyes Blue
The Story of Us (1999) ??? "(I) Get Lost" (featured multiple times)
Friends (2000) ??? The One with the Proposal, Part 2, "Wonderful Tonight"
Dancing At The Blue Iguana (2000) ??? "River of Tears"
A Knight's Tale (2001) ??? "Further On Up The Road"
Futurama ??? episode 30% Iron Chef ??? "Sunshine of Your Love"
Blow (2001) ??? "Strange Brew"
Friends (2002) ??? The One Where Rachel Has a Baby, Part Two, "River of Tears"
The Sopranos in season four episode of the TV crime drama "Whitecaps" (2002)- Tony Soprano is seen listening to "Layla" in his Suburban.
School Of Rock (2003) ??? "Sunshine Of Your Love"
Starsky & Hutch (2004) ??? "Cocaine"
Anger Management (film) (2004) ??? "Strange Brew"
Bad News Bears (2005) ??? "Cocaine"
Lords of Dogtown (2005) ??? "Strange Brew"
Lord of War (2005)- "Cocaine"
The Simpsons ??? "Sunshine of your love"
Fahrenheit 9/11 ??? "Cocaine"
United States of Tara ??? "Cocaine"