To begin by saying that Eric Clapton is a talented guitarist would be a great truth, but also a terrible banality as our protagonist (and today’s birthday-boy) gets closer to a divinity … with a guitar in his hands.
Apollo, god of music, played a zither and enchanted human beings … several centuries later Eric Clapton does the same, but with a Fender!
Clapton remains one of the essential blues and country artists.
A member of many bands, including the Yardbirds and Cream, his songs “Layla” or “Tears in heaven” have revealed only part of his incredible musical genius.
On the occasion of his 77th birthday, we will tell you his story.
The first 20 years of Eric Clapton
Born in Ripley, near London, on March 30, 1945, Eric Clapton was raised by his grandparents, who rocked him with the blues of Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. Like so many artists met in this blog, even the very young Eric shows a disposition for the guitar very quickly. This arrangement he developed by forming a first group, the Roosters in 1963, before joining briefly with Casey Jones and the Engineers.
It was in 1964 that the artist’s career took on a real dimension. On the eve of his 20s he joined the Yardbirds of which he became the guitarist and leader.
He recorded his first titles, “I wish you can” and “A Certain girl”, as well as two albums “Five live Yardbirds and” Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds. “Despite the resounding success of” For your love “, in 1965 he left the group, which in his opinion had become too commercial.
Clapton, who stands out for the virtuosity he demonstrates with his instrument, accepts the same year John Mayall’s proposal to integrate the Bluesbreakers, already famous in the midst of R&B.
The short story of Cream
In 1966 Clapton, who for a time had joined The Glands to travel the world, recorded the album “John Mayall’s and the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton”.
The album had not yet been released, when once again the unstable, tired of routine, the artist abandoned his training to create Cream in 1967 with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.
The guitarist, who was soon nicknamed “God” for his perfect command of the guitar that never stopped producing new sounds, managed to release three discs with his group, “Fresh Cream”, “Disraeli Gears” and “Wheels of fire”.
While a last album was released in March 1969, “Goodbye Cream”, the band already no longer existed. The rivalries between Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce had the better of Cream.
Eric Clapton, who does not assume his leading status, sinks into drugs as he tries his adventure with Blind Faith, which first includes Traffic lead singer Steve Winwood and ex Cream Ginger Baker on drums.
In search of himself: Eric Clapton and Layla
New disappointment for Eric Clapton, but above all for his audience, who expect a lot from this new group. In vain, after a first appearance in Hyde Park in 1969, followed by a tour in the United States, there is the dissolution.
Burned by media coverage, which has so far only damaged the cohesion within his later bands, Eric Clapton joins the band of musicians, Delaney and Bonnie, for a European tour. Even if the collaboration stopped in 1970, the experience proved fruitful.
The artist opens up to ballads, slow and country songs that will gradually take over his so far bluesy compositions. He also took part in a concert given by John Lennon and Yoko Ono and met George Harrison. The two men maintained a deep friendship that led Eric Clapton to contribute to George Harrison’s first solo album, “All things must past”.
At the same time, Clapton’s love life also gets complicated. In fact, he falls in love with Pattie Boyd, a professional model but above all Harrison’s wife. The passion, which in any case is not shared at the beginning but will eventually lead to a marriage in 1979, nevertheless inspires the artist.
Recorded with Derek and the Domino, “Layla”, suggested by Nizami’s poem, “Leila and Majnun”, which tells of a man’s passion for a married woman, made Eric Clapton an idol in 1970.
Clapton then releases as a solo artist the albums “461 Ocean Bld” or “Slowhand” as well as the titles “Cocaïne”. He also records a Bob Marley cover “I shot the sherif” which further accentuates Clapton’s popularity.
Demons persecute Clapton
The early 1980s were marked by the return of Eric Clapton’s old demons, still plagued by alcohol and cocaine.
The artist, who appears to be on the mend from his relationship with Yvonne Khan Kelly, followed by his divorce from Pattie Boyd in 1988, is overwhelmed by a death in 1990: the disappearance of a talented guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan, who died in a helicopter crash. A story that we told you some time ago.
One year later, his four-year-old son, Conor (whom he had with his Italian partner Lory del Santo), died falling from a window.
A drama that inspired him, the following year, the poignant song “Tears in heaven”, also used in the soundtrack of the film “Rush” and awarded with a Grammy Award.
This song revived the guitarist’s career, who is back on track.
In particular, he was on tour with George Harrison in Japan, immortalized on the album “Live in Japan”. With the 1992 album “Unplugged”, which gives pride of place to acoustics, he takes up the old blues standards. There is also a duet with Sting.
The comeback of Eric Clapton
New record, two years later. “From the Cradle” definitely marks Eric Clapton’s return to center stage.
With a newfound confidence, he also tried his hand at electronic music in 1997 with “Retail Therapy”, under the name of TDF.
New evidence of this newfound serenity are the 1998 albums “Pilgrim” and “Reptile”, three years later. Two albums that use, once again, electronic sounds.
Instead, there is a return to origins in 2004 with a tribute album to one of Eric Clapton’s idols, Robert Johnson, to whom he pays homage in “Me and Mr Johnson”.
Surprisingly the following year, the artist reformed Cream with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker for a series of concerts in London before the release of his album “Back Home”, including some songs, in particular those written with Simon Climie, were filmed on a European tour in 2006.
The following year, Eric Clapton made his big comeback with a double compilation, “Complete Clapton”, a good opportunity to listen to some of his forty-year career successes, “Layla”, “Tears in heaven”, ” I Shot The Sheriff “,” Cocaine “or” Motherless child “.
Eric Clapton since 2010
In January 2010 Eric Clapton reformed the legendary Plastic Ono Band with Yoko Ono and Paul Simon, to give some concerts in Central Park.
Then, for his 19th album, “Clapton”, released in September 2010, the singer surrounds himself with Doyle Bramhall II and sings in duet with Sheryl Crow, Allen Toussaint, Wynton Marsalis or even Derek Trucks.
In recent years Clapton has also collaborated with many artists: with the famous trombonist Chris Barber, with guitarist Paul Wassif and with Robbie Robertson, of the legendary group The Band.
On February 24, 2012, Eric shared the stage with Keith Richards, Kim Wilson, Derek Trucks and other big stars of the Apollo Theater in New York during a “Howlin ‘For Hubert” concert held in honor of bluesman Hubert Sumlin, who died 4 December 2011 at the age of 80.
In “Old Sock”, his 21st album released in 2013, Eric Clapton is delighted with the covers of the artists who marked him and two unreleased tracks, “Every Little” and “Gotta Get Over”. The album ranges from blues-rock (Gary Moore, Leadbelly) to reggae (Peter Tosh), passing through jazz (George and Ira Gershwin). Paul McCartney plays the bass and provides the voice on “All of Me”. Steve Winwood, Chaka Khan or even JJ Cale are also alongside him.
The following year, “The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale” was released. JJ Cale is for Clapton one of the most important figures in rock history. A year after the death of the creator of “Cocaine”, Eric Clapton gathers a group of musicians to honor his memory.
Eric Clapton, 70 years and still going strong…
In May 2015 Eric Clapton plays twice at Madison Square Garden (New York), then seven times at the Royal Albert Hall (London) on the occasion of his 70th birthday. The album “Slowhand at 70: Live at the Royal Albert Hall” immortalizes these concerts.
In April 2016, Eric Clapton gives a series of concerts in Tokyo and releases his 23rd album “I Still Do”. The album alternates unreleased tracks and covers of standards such as “Stones in My Passway” by Robert Johnson, “Alabama Woman Blues” by Leroy Carr, “I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine” by Bob Dylan, which Clapton admires.
The title is a reference to the last words of his beloved great-aunt, who raised him. For the realization of the album, Clapton finds two of his old accomplices: the producer Glyn Johns (with whom he produced his hit “Slowhand” in 1977) and the artist Sir Peter Blake, who designed the work reproduced on the cover of the album. Peter Blake, for the record, is the author of the famous Beatles cover for “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The photo of Clapton for this album was taken by one of Paul McCartney’s daughters, Mary.
In the same period Clapton also appears on the Rolling Stones album “Blue & Lonesome”.
The tours thin out, due to health problems affecting Clapton’s back and (holy) hands. The year 2017 is however that of a short tour that takes him from New York to California, then to London.
Fortunately for us, Clapton is unable to hang up his guitar, because in 2018 he is still active on stage in Germany and the United States, in the same year he releases his first album of Christmas songs entitled Happy Xmas.
In 2019 Clapton embarks on a new tour, with dates in Japan, Europe and the United States. <he also announces a series of summer dates for 2020 that also include the Italian cities of Milan and Bologna. Unfortunately, as has already happened for many other artists, Covid 19 will lead to the cancellation of all Clapton concerts.
On December 4, 2020, the new single, Stand And Deliver, is released, written by Van Morrison against the restrictive security measures following the pandemic, the proceeds of which went to the Lockdown Financial Hardship Fund, an association of Van Morrison to help affected entertainment workers from the crisis.
How to conclude this article? While waiting for a new release by Eric Clapton, we can also remember how much a record man he is. He is in fact the only musician to boast three different inductions in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is considered the second best guitarist in the world after Jimi Hendrix.
Is there anything else to add? One thing: happy birthday Mr. Eric Clapton, with love and total devotion from the Zoa Studio team!