CBE (born 30 March 1945), is an English rock and blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist and separately as a member of the Yardbirds and Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton ranked second in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and fourth in Gibson's "Top 50 Guitarists of All Time". He was also named number five in Time magazine's list of "The 10 Best Electric Guitar Players" in 2009.
In the mid-1960s Clapton left the Yardbirds to play blues with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Immediately after leaving Mayall, Clapton formed the power trio Cream with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce, in which Clapton played sustained blues improvisations and "arty, blues-based psychedelic pop". Furthermore, he formed blues rock band Blind Faith with Baker, Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech. For most of the 1970s Clapton's output bore the influence of the mellow style of JJ Cale and the reggae of Bob Marley. His version of Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" helped reggae reach a mass market. Two of his most popular recordings were "Layla", recorded with Derek and the Dominos; and Robert Johnson's "Crossroads", recorded with Cream. Following the death of his son Conor in 1991, Clapton's grief was expressed in the song "Tears in Heaven", which was featured on his Unplugged album.
Clapton has been the recipient of 18 Grammy Awards, and the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. In 2004 he was awarded a CBE at Buckingham Palace for services to music. In 1998, Clapton, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, founded the Crossroads Centre on Antigua, a medical facility for recovering substance abusers.
7 January 1929 – March 1999) and Edward Walter Fryer (21 March 1920 – 15 May 1985), 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 Clapp, who was stepfather to Patricia Clapton and her
brother Adrian, believing they were his parents and that his mother was
actually his older sister. The similarity in surnames gave rise to the
erroneous belief that Clapton's real surname is Clapp (Reginald Cecil
Clapton was the name of Rose's first husband, Eric Clapton's maternal
grandfather). Years later, his mother married another Canadian soldier and moved to Germany, leaving young Eric with his grandparents in Surrey.
Clapton received an acoustic Hoyer guitar,
made in Germany, for his thirteenth birthday, but the inexpensive
steel-stringed instrument was difficult to play and he briefly lost
interest. Two years later Clapton picked it up again and started playing consistently. Clapton was influenced by the blues from an early age, and practised long hours to learn the chords of blues music by playing along to the records. He preserved his practice sessions using his portable Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder, listening to them over and over until he felt he'd got it right.
In 1961, after leaving Hollyfield School in Surbiton, 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. His guitar playing was so advanced
that, by the age of 16, he was getting noticed. Around this time, Clapton began busking around Kingston, Richmond, and the West End. In 1962, Clapton started performing as a duo with fellow blues enthusiast David Brock in pubs around Surrey. When he was seventeen years old, Clapton joined his first band, an early British R&B group, the Roosters, whose other guitarist was Tom McGuinness. He stayed with this band from January until August 1963. In October of that year, Clapton did a seven-gig stint with Casey Jones & the Engineers.
In March 1965, Clapton and the Yardbirds had their first major hit, "For Your Love", written by songwriter Graham Gouldman, who also wrote hit songs for Herman's Hermits and the Hollies (and would later achieve success of his own as a member of 10cc).
In part because of its success, the Yardbirds elected to move toward a
pop-oriented sound, much to the annoyance of Clapton, who was devoted to
the blues and not commercial success. He left the Yardbirds on the day
that "For Your Love" went public, a move that left the band without its
lead guitarist and most accomplished member. Clapton suggested fellow
guitarist Jimmy Page to be his replacement, but Page declined out of loyalty to Clapton, putting Jeff Beck forward.
While Beck and Page played together in the Yardbirds, the trio of Beck,
Page, and Clapton were never in the group together. However, the three
did appear on the 12-date benefit tour for Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis in 1983.
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.
During his second Bluesbreakers stint, Clapton gained a reputation as
the best blues guitarist on the club circuit. Although Clapton gained
world fame for his playing on the influential album, Blues Breakers – John Mayall – With Eric Clapton, this album was not released until he had left the band for the last time. Having swapped his Fender Telecaster and Vox AC30 amplifier 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 reported to have been embarrassed by
the slogan, saying in his The South Bank Show profile 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".
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.
Clapton first visited the United States while touring with Cream. In
March 1967, Cream performed a nine-show stand at the RKO Theater in New
York. They recorded Disraeli Gears in New York from 11–15 May 1967. Cream's repertoire varied from hard rock ("I Feel Free") to lengthy blues-based instrumental jams ("Spoonful"). Disraeli Gears
featured Clapton's searing guitar lines, Bruce's soaring vocals and
prominent, fluid bass playing, and Baker's powerful, polyrhythmic
jazz-influenced drumming. Together, Cream's talents secured them as an
influential 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 emphasize musical virtuosity and lengthy jazz-style
improvisation sessions. Their US 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". Though Cream was hailed as one of the greatest
groups of its day, and the adulation of Clapton as a guitar legend
reached new heights, the supergroup
was short-lived. Drug and alcohol use escalated tension between the
three members, and conflicts between Bruce and Baker eventually led to
Cream's demise. A strongly critical Rolling Stone review of a
concert of the group's second headlining US tour was another significant
factor in the trio's demise, and it affected Clapton profoundly.
Cream's farewell album, Goodbye, featuring live performances recorded at The Forum, Los Angeles, 19 October 1968, was released shortly after Cream disbanded; it also featured the studio single "Badge", co-written by Clapton and George Harrison. Clapton met Harrison and became friends with him after the Beatles shared a bill with the Clapton-era Yardbirds at the London Palladium. The close friendship between Clapton and Harrison resulted in Clapton playing the lead guitar solo on Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from the Beatles' White Album (1968).
Cream briefly reunited in 1993 to perform at the ceremony inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; a full reunion took place in May 2005, with Clapton, Bruce, and Baker playing four sold-out concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall, and three shows at New York's Madison Square Garden that October. Recordings from the London shows, Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005, were released on CD, LP, and DVD in September/December 2005.
1969. They performed several dates in Scandinavia and began a sold-out
American tour in July before their only album was released. The LP Blind Faith consisted of just six songs, one of them the hit "Can't Find My Way Home".
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.
With the intention of counteracting the "star" cult faction that had
begun to form around him, Clapton assembled a new band composed of
Delaney and Bonnie's former rhythm section, Bobby Whitlock as keyboardist and vocalist, Carl Radle as the bassist, and drummer Jim Gordon,
with Clapton playing guitar. It was his intention to show that he need
not fill a starring role, and functioned well as a member of an
The band was originally called "Eric Clapton and Friends". The name
"Derek and the Dominos" was a fluke that occurred when the band's
provisional name of "Del and the Dynamos" was misread as Derek and the
Dominos. Clapton's biography states that Tony Ashton of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke
told Clapton to call the band "Del and the Dominos", since "Del" was
his nickname for Eric Clapton. Del and Eric were combined and the final
name became "Derek and the Dominos".
Clapton's close friendship with George Harrison 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 (1970). Heavily blues-influenced, the album features the twin lead guitars of Clapton and Duane Allman, with Allman's slide guitar as a key ingredient of the sound. 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 album features the hit love song "Layla", inspired by the classical poet of Persian literature, Nizami Ganjavi's The Story of Layla and Majnun, a copy of which Ian Dallas
had given to Clapton. 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.
The two parts of "Layla" were recorded in separate sessions: the
opening guitar section was recorded first, and for the second section,
laid down a few weeks later, drummer Jim Gordon played the piano part
for the melody which he claimed to have written (though Bobby Whitlock
stated that Rita Coolidge wrote it).
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, Clapton started living with Pattie Boyd (they would not marry
until 1979) and was no longer using heroin (although he gradually began
to drink heavily). He assembled a low-key touring band that included
Radle, Miami guitarist George Terry, keyboardist Dick Sims (who died in 2011), drummer Jamie Oldaker, and vocalists Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy (also known as Marcella Detroit). 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 number one 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 this trend. 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 period include No Reason to Cry (a collaboration with Bob Dylan and the Band); Slowhand, which featured "Wonderful Tonight" and a second JJ Cale cover, "Cocaine". In 1976 he performed as one of a string of notable guests at the farewell performance of The Band, filmed in a Martin Scorsese documentary called The Last Waltz.
27 August 1990, fellow blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan,
who was touring with Clapton, and three members of their road crew were
killed in a helicopter crash between concerts. Then, on 20 March
1991, Clapton's four-year-old son, Conor, died after falling from the
53rd-floor window of his mother's friend's New York City apartment at
117 East 57th Street. Conor's funeral took place on 28 March at St Mary
Magdelene's Church in Clapton's home village in Ripley, Surrey.
Clapton's grief was expressed in the song "Tears in Heaven", which was co-written by Will Jennings. At the 35th Grammy Awards, Clapton received six Grammys for the single "Tears in Heaven" and his Unplugged album. Unplugged features Clapton performing live in front of a small audience on 16 January 1992 at Bray Film Studios in Windsor, Berkshire, England. The album reached number one on the Billboard 200, and has since been certified Diamond by the RIAA for selling over 10 million copies in the US. On 9 September 1992, Clapton performed "Tears in Heaven" at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, and won the award for Best Male Video.
Clapton cites Muddy Waters, Freddie King, B.B. King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, and Hubert Sumlin as guitar playing influences. Clapton stated blues musician Robert Johnson to be his single most important influence. In 2004 Clapton released CDs and DVDs entitled Sessions for Robert Johnson, featuring covers of Robert Johnson songs using electric and acoustic guitars. Clapton also singled out Buddy Holly as an influence.
Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. He ranked second in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and fourth in Gibson's Top 50 Guitarists.
Guitarists influenced by Clapton include Slash, Allen Collins, Richie Sambora, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, Duane Allman, Derek Trucks, Eddie Van Halen, Terry Kath, Brian May, Tony Iommi, Lenny Kravitz, Ted Nugent, Orianthi, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Jonny Buckland, Joe Don Rooney, Alex Lifeson, Jonny Lang, Carroll Bryant (song writing), John Mayer, Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa, Davy Knowles, Lindsay Ell, Neal Schon, and Mark Knopfler.
Clapton and Pattie Boyd married in 1979 and had no children. In 1984 while recording Behind The Sun, Clapton began a relationship with Yvonne Kelly, the manager of AIR Studios Montserrat.
Although both were married to other partners at the time, they had a
daughter in January 1985. She was named Ruth Kelly Clapton, but her
existence was kept from the public until the media realised she was his
child in 1991.
Clapton and Boyd tried unsuccessfully to have children, even trying in vitro fertilisation in 1984, but were faced instead with miscarriages. They divorced in 1988 following his affair with Italian model Lory Del Santo, who gave birth to their son, Conor, on 21 August
1986. Conor died in 1991, at the age of four and a half, when he fell
out of an open bedroom window on the 53rd floor of a Manhattan apartment
building. The death of his son was the inspiration for Clapton's song, "Tears in Heaven".
Clapton married Melia McEnery in a low-key church ceremony in January
2002. They have three daughters: Julie Rose (born June 2001), Ella May
(born 2003) and Sophie Belle (born 2005). His grandson Isaac Eric Owen Bartlett was born in June 2013 to his oldest daughter Ruth and her husband Dean Bartlett.
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