Eric Clapton

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Performers and composers

Eric Clapton
Clapton at the Tsunami Relief concert, 2005
Clapton at the Tsunami Relief concert, 2005
Background information
Birth name Eric Patrick Clapton
Also known as Slowhand
Born 30 March 1945 (1945-03-30) Ripley, Surrey, England
Genre(s) Blues, blues-rock, hard rock, pop, psychedelic rock, reggae
Occupation(s) Musician, Songwriter
Instrument(s) Guitar, Vocals
Years active 1963 - present
Associated acts Casey Jones and the Engineers, The Roosters, The Yardbirds, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Powerhouse, Cream, The Beatles, The Dirty Mac, Blind Faith, The Plastic Ono Band, Martha Veléz, Delaney, Bonnie & Friends, Derek and the Dominos, Roger Waters, Dire Straits, T.D.F.
Website Official website
Notable instrument(s)
See: Clapton's guitar section

Eric Patrick Clapton CBE (born 30 March 1945), nicknamed Slowhand, is a Grammy Award winning English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer. He is one of the most successful musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries, garnering an unprecedented three inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ( The Yardbirds, Cream, and solo). Often viewed by critics and fans alike as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Eric Clapton was ranked 4th in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of The Greatest Guitarists of All Time and #53 on their list of the The Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Although Clapton's musical style has varied throughout his career, it has always remained rooted in the blues. Clapton is credited as an innovator in several phases of his career, which have included blues-rock (with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds) and psychedelic rock (with Cream). Clapton has also achieved great chart success in genres ranging from Delta blues ( Me and Mr. Johnson) to pop (" Change the World") and reggae (Bob Marley's " I Shot the Sheriff"). Clapton also achieved fame with Derek and the Dominos with the song "Layla".

Musical career and personal life

Clapton's early days

Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England the son of unwed parents 16-year-old Patricia Molly Clapton and Edward Walter Fryer, a 24-year-old soldier from Montréal. 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 Eric's real name is Clapp.) Years later, his mother married another Canadian soldier, moved to Canada and left Eric with his grandparents. When Clapton was 9 years old, he discovered this family secret when his mother and 6 year old half-brother, Brian, returned to England for a visit. The experience became a defining moment in his life. He stopped applying himself at school and became moody and distant from his family.. Brian died in 1974 in a road accident, but Clapton also has two half-sisters from this relationship, Cheryl (born in May 1953) and Heather (born in September 1958)..

Clapton grew up quiet, shy, lonely and in his words a "nasty kid", who was very serious about his musical goals. However he is also known to have a sense of humour as well.

During his secondary school years he attended the Hollyfield School in Surbiton. His first job was as a postman. At 13, Clapton received an acoustic Spanish Hoya guitar, as well as a marimba, for his birthday, but he found learning the instruments so difficult he nearly gave up. Influenced by the blues from an early age, he practiced for hours on end, struggling to learn chords and trying to copy the exact sounds of black blues artists such as Big Bill Broonzy that he had on his little Grundig Cub tape recorder.

After leaving school, Clapton completed a one-year foundation art course in 1962 at the Kingston College of Art but he did not go on to undertake an art degree. Around this time Clapton began busking around Kingston, Richmond and the West End of London. Clapton joined his first band at 17 and stayed with this band - the early British R&B outfit The Roosters - from January through to August 1963. Clapton did a seven-gig stint with Casey Jones and the Engineers in October 1963

The Yardbirds & the Bluesbreakers

Clapton joined The Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band in 1963 and stayed with them until March 1965. Synthesising 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 his time with the Yardbirds that Clapton acquired the nickname "Slowhand". Whenever he broke a guitar string on stage he would immediately replace it himself; British audiences would respond with slow hand claps until he was finished and ready to play again. Inspired by this, and also in ironic reference to Clapton's 'fast' playing, the Yardbirds' manager Giorgio Gomelsky christened him "Slowhand" Clapton.

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, but not all on the same tracks.

Clapton joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in April 1965. His passionate playing in nightclubs — and on the immensely influential album, Blues Breakers — established Clapton's name worldwide as a blues guitarist. With his 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar and Marshall amplifier, Clapton's playing by then had 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 graffito 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." Contrary to a popular myth (perpetuated by, amongst others, the South Bank Show programme itself), "Clapton is God" slogans did not appear all over the place but only on that wall.


Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in July, 1966 (to be replaced by Peter Green) and then 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 Organisation) 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 and songwriter, as well as 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 an enduring legend on the high-volume blues jamming and extended solos of their live shows, while their studio work was focused on shorter versions of the same songs.

In early 1967, Clapton's status as Britain's top guitarist was rivalled by the emergence of Jimi Hendrix. 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". 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 USA. They went to New York in March 1967 for a nine show stand at the RKO Theatre. They returned to New York to record Disraeli Gears May 11-15, 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, and Baker's powerful, polyrhythmic jazz-influenced drumming.

In a mere twenty-eight months Cream had immense commercial success, selling millions of records and playing to standing-room only crowds throughout the U.S. and Europe. They redefined the instrumentalist's role in rock and were one of the first bands to emphasise musical virtuosity, skill and flash. 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 "Crossroad 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 band 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. By this time he had also fallen deeply under the spell of the music of The Band after they had released the album Music from Big Pink and began to believe that rock music was heading in a new direction. He was so infatuated with them that he even asked to join them, but was turned down.

Cream's farewell album, Goodbye, featured live performances recorded live at The Forum, Los Angeles, 19 October 1968, and it 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 guests. 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 4 sold-out concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall (the scene of their 1968 farewell shows) and 3 more at New York's Madison Square Garden that October. Recordings from the London shows were released on CD and DVD in September 2005.

Blind Faith & Delaney and Bonnie and Friends

A desultory spell in a second supergroup, 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 supergroup debuted before 100,000 fans in London's Hyde Park on 7 June 1969, performed several dates in Scandinavia, then began a sold-out American tour in July before its one and only album had been 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 U.S. and was replaced by a photograph of the band. Blind Faith dissolved after less than seven months together. While Winwood returned to Traffic, by now Clapton was tired of both the spotlight and the hype that had surrounded Cream and Blind Faith. He wanted to make music that more closely resembled that of The Band.

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 with The Plastic Ono Band. Clapton became close friends with Delaney Bramlett, who encouraged him in his singing and writing, which would show determined growth in his next effort. Using the Bramletts' backing group and an all-star cast of session players (including Leon Russell and Stephen Stills, he recorded his first solo album during two brief tour hiatuses, fittingly named Eric Clapton, which included the Bramlett composition, "Bottle Of Red Wine", and one of Clapton's best songs from this period, "Let It Rain". It also yielded an unexpected U.S. #18 hit, J. J. Cale's "After Midnight".

Clapton went from the stage with Delaney and Bonnie 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 Stephen Stills, Dr John, Leon Russell, Plastic Ono Band, Howlin' Wolf, The Bonzo Dog Band, King Curtis, Ashton Gardner & Dyke, Martha Veléz, Billy Preston and Ringo Starr.

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 similarly intended to counteract the 'star' cult that had grown up around him and display Clapton as an equal member of a fully-fledged group. The band was unnamed early on simply called "Eric Clapton and Friends" with its final name, Derek and the Dominos, an accident, by all accounts. Whitlock claims the previous performer, Tony Ashton of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke mispronounced their provisional name of "Eric and the Dynamos" as Derek and the Dominos. While in Clapton's biography a different story emerges claiming 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, most notably the hit single "Layla", inspired by the classical Persian poet Nezami Ganjavi's The Story of Layli 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 couldn't marry her. Clapton found a strong similarity between the situation of Layla and Majnun and the one between him and Boyd-Harrison.

Working at Criteria Studios in Miami with legendary Atlantic Records producer Tom Dowd, who had worked with Clapton on Cream's Disraeli Gears, the band recorded a brilliant double-album, which is now widely regarded as Clapton's masterpiece. 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 — who previously knew each other only by reputation — met first onstage as Duane stopped playing in mid-solo only to discover Clapton sitting right in front of him. Clapton and Allman played all night in the studio and became instant friends, and Allman was immediately invited to become the fifth member of The Dominos. (These studio jams were eventually released as part of the 3-CD 20th-anniversary edition of the Layla album.)

When Allman and Clapton met, The Dominos had barely started recording anything. Duane first added his slide guitar to "Tell the Truth" on August 28th as well as "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." In a window of only 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. In the two days he was absent, the four-piece Dominos recorded "I Looked Away," "Bell Bottom Blues," and "Keep on Growing." Duane returned on the 3rd 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 winning 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 Sept. 17, 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; Clapton took this personally, accelerating his spiral into drug addiction.

The shaken group undertook a US tour. 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. But Derek and the Dominos disintegrated messily in London just as they commenced recording for their second LP in 1971, without Duane Allman. Several tracks were recorded (five of which were released on the Eric Clapton box-set Crossroads), but the results were mediocre with a distinct lack of Bobby Whitlock's influence (he does not even appear on "Got To Get Better In A Little While," which had become a live favourite during their tour.) Although Radle would be 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 wasn't until 2003 before they worked together again (Clapton guested on Whitlock's appearance on the Later with Jools Holland show, playing and singing " Bell Bottom Blues", available on a "Later with Jools" DVD). Another tragic footnote to the Dominos story was the fate of drummer Jim Gordon, who was an undiagnosed schizophrenic who some years later during a psychotic episode murdered his mother and was confined to 16 years to life imprisonment. Gordon was moved to a mental institution after several years, where he remains today.

Solo career

Clapton's career successes were in stark contrast to his personal life, in a chaotic mess by late 1971. In addition to his (temporarily) unrequited and intense romantic longing for 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 of 1971 (where he passed out on stage, was revived, and continued the show). In January of 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 for the fact that 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 free of 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 (in 1975) Marcy Levy (later better known as Marcella Detroit of 1980s pop duo Shakespear's Sister). With this band Clapton recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974), an album with the 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 missed. (Clapton's own original cover artwork, a self-portrait of a miserable-looking character with a pint glass, was relegated to innersleeve status and replaced by a photograph of Clapton's dog Jeep, apparently with its muzzle on a coffin.) The band toured the world and subsequently released the 1975 live LP, E.C. Was Here.

In 1976, Clapton appeared at The Band's farewell concert on 26 November. It was the second farewell concert Clapton had played on that date; eight years earlier, he had played Cream's farewell concert in London.

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", which has since become a rock staple.


Clapton in Concert in Switzerland, 19 June 1977
Clapton in Concert in Switzerland, 19 June 1977

On August 5, 1976, Clapton was placed the centre of controversy when he spoke out against increasing immigration during a concert in Birmingham. Visibly intoxicated, he remarked that England had "become overcrowded" and told the audience to "Stop Britain from becoming a black colony". He said, "I used to be into dope, now I'm into racism." Clapton also voiced his support of controversial political candidate Enoch Powell, telling the crowd "I think Enoch's right...we should send them all back. Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!". These comments, along with equally controversial remarks and actions by David Bowie apparently expressing admiration for fascism (which Bowie later apologised for), led to the creation of the Rock Against Racism movement in the UK.

Clapton later explained that he felt angry since an "Arab" had felt his wife's bottom. He stated in a 1978 interview that he had "rabbited on about nothing". He stated that "what started it, was the upsurge in London of Arab money-spending and their lack of respect for other people's money. "How much is Hyde Park?" and all that, and for some reason it all came pouring out of me that night". In a 2004 interview with Uncut magazine, Clapton called Enoch Powell "outrageously brave". He also stated that "My feeling about this has not changed really. We have always been up to some funny business in this country, inviting people in as cheap labour and then putting them in ghettos."

Clapton has also stated that "There’s no way I could be a racist. It would make no sense". In his autobiography, he 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."

In the late 1980s Clapton added four black musicians to his band: bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, drummer Steve Ferrone and backing singer Katie Kissoon. Whilst Clapton had previously played and recorded with many black musicians including Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry, BB King and Robert Cray and had also appeared alongside performers of varying ethnicities at collaborative events such as The Concert for Bangla Desh, this was the first time Clapton had been in a band in which the official members were not all white. Defenders of Clapton's claim not to be racist also point out that he has dated Afro-Caribbean supermodel Naomi Campbell, and has had a home on the Caribbean island of Antigua for many years.

In an interview with Melvin Bragg on The South Bank Show broadcast on 2 December 2007, Clapton reiterated his support for Enoch Powell and denied that Powell's views were racist.


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.

In 1984, he performed on Pink Floyd member Roger Waters's 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 came back 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 suffused with Collins's trademark drum/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 Colour 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 at his angry best.

The period kicked off Clapton's extensive two-year period of touring with Collins and their August collaborates, bassist Nathan East and keyboard player/songwriter Greg Phillinganes. Despite his own earlier battles with the bottle, Clapton also remade "After Midnight" as a single and a promotional track for the Michelob beer brand produced by Anheuser-Busch, which had also marketed earlier songs by Collins and Steve Winwood.

Clapton won more plaudits and a British Academy Television Award for his collaboration with Michael Kamen on the score for the critically-acclaimed 1985 BBC television thriller serial Edge of Darkness.

Clapton also worked on the music for the " Lethal Weapon" motion picture series alongside Michael Kamen and David Sanborn.

Many factors influenced Clapton's comeback, including his "deepening commitment to Christianity", to which he had converted prior to his heroin addiction.

In 1989, Clapton's commercial and artistic resurgence finally came full circle with Journeyman, which featured songs in a wide range of styles from blues to jazz, soul and pop and collaborators including George Harrison, Phil Collins, Daryl Hall, Chaka Khan, Mick Jones, David Sanborn and Robert Cray.

Tragedy again

In 1984, while still married to Pattie Boyd, Clapton began a year-long relationship with Yvonne Kelly; they had a daughter, Ruth, born 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, at the funeral of his son Conor. Boyd did not know of the existence of Ruth until 1991: "What cut deepest was that Eric had known about the child all along. While declaring undying love to me and pleading with me to go back to him, he had been paying Yvonne maintenance for the past six years."

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 was born as a result of newspaper articles published at the time.

Clapton and Boyd divorced in 1989 following his affair with Italian model Lory Del Santo, who gave birth to their son Conor in August 1986. Boyd herself was never able to conceive children, despite attempts at in vitro fertilization. Their divorce was granted in 1989 on grounds of "infidelity and unreasonable behaviour."

The early 1990s saw tragedy enter Clapton's life again on two occasions. On 27 August 1990, good friend and 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. This marked the third iconic guitarist who was also Clapton's good friend to be killed, the first being Jimi Hendrix in 1970, the second being Duane Allman just over a year later in 1971, and the third being Vaughan. All three, along with Clapton himself, are known as some of the greatest guitarists to ever live. Then, on 20 March 1991 at 11:00AM, 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" (on the soundtrack to the 1991 movie Rush). The song was co-written by Will Jennings. He received a total of six Grammys that year for the single "Tears in Heaven" and the Unplugged album.

Slowhand re-emerging

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. The album showed that Clapton could still effectively play blues along the more mainstream music featured in his other records.

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 a 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 critically-acclaimed collaborations with Carlos Santana and B. B. King.

In 1996 Clapton had a relationship with singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow. The couple dated briefly but it is rumoured that Sheryl wrote " My Favorite Mistake" about her relationship with Clapton. They remain friends currently, and Eric Clapton also appeared as a guest on Sheryl Crow's Central Park Concert when the duo performed a Cream hit single " White Room".

In 1999 Clapton, then 54, met 23-year-old store clerk Melia McEnery in Los Angeles while working on an album with B.B. King. They married in 2002 at St Mary Magdalen church in Clapton's birthplace, Ripley, Surrey, and as of 2005 have three daughters, Julie Rose (2001), Ella May (2003), and Sophie Belle (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 home life with his wife and daughters.

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 and in November he organised and hosted the The Concert for George at the Royal Albert Hall, a tribute to George Harrison, who had died a year earlier of cancer. The concert featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, and Ravi Shankar, and others.

In 2004, Clapton released two records packed full of covers by legendary Bluesman, Robert Johnson. Me & Mr Johnson. The same year, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Clapton #53 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".

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.

Eric Clapton (4th from left) and his band live in 2007
Eric Clapton (4th from left) and his band live in 2007

In 2006 it was announced that Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II would join Clapton's 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 US tour.

On 20 May 2006 he performed with Queen drummer Roger Taylor and former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, at the Highclere Castle, in aid of the Countryside Alliance. On 13 August 2006, Clapton made a surprise guest appearance at the Bob Dylan concert in Columbus, Ohio. Though he did not take the stage with Dylan, he played guitar on three songs in Jimmie Vaughan's opening act.

A collaboration with guitar legend J. J. Cale, titled The Road to Escondido, was released on 7 November 2006. The 14 track CD was produced and recorded by the duo in August 2005 in California.

The rights to Clapton's official memoirs, written by Christopher Simon Sykes and published in 2007, were reportedly sold at the 2005 Frankfurt Book Fair for USD $4 million.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Clapton is currently working on an album with Robbie Robertson. Robertson performed with Clapton at the Crossroads Guitar Festival. They played "Who Do You Love?", which Robertson originally did with Ronnie Hawkins, as a member of The Hawks. Clapton and Steve Winwood also reunited at the Festival, performing a set featuring numerous Blind Faith songs. The two decided to carry on the collaboration, and will perform together at Madison Square Garden in New York City for three sold-out shows on February 25, 26, and 28, 2008.


Clapton has performed songs by myriad artists, most notably Robert Johnson and J. J. Cale. Other artists Clapton has covered include Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. He cites Freddie King, B.B. King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin and primarily Robert Johnson as major influences on his guitar playing, stating in the liner notes of his Robert Johnson tribute album Me and Mr. Johnson It is a remarkable thing to have been driven and influenced all of my life by the work of one man... I accept that it has always been the keystone of my musical foundation... I am talking of course about Robert Johnson."

"Robert Johnson to me is 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." from Discovering Robert Johnson by Eric Clapton.

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 the artist. Other artists Clapton has made collaborations with include Frank Zappa, B.B King, George Harrison (with whom he worked on the song Badge), Santana, Ringo Starr, Roger Waters, Bob Marley 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 style.

The search for his father

Although Clapton's grandparents had eventually told him the truth about his parentage — that he was the son of a Canadian serviceman — the precise identity of his father remained a mystery for many years. Clapton knew that his father's name was Edward Fryer, but few other details were known. This was a source of disquiet and speculation for Clapton, as witnessed by his 1998 song " My Father's Eyes" in which he writes How did I get here? What have I done? When will all my hopes arise? When I look in my father's eyes, although Clapton has also mentioned on one occasion that the song is about his late son Conor.

A Toronto journalist named Michael Woloschuk set about solving the mystery. He researched Canadian Armed Forces service records and tracked down members of Fryer's family, finally piecing together the story that Clapton's father was Edward Walter Fryer, born 21 March 1920, in Montreal and died 15 May 1985 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 personally thanked Woloschuck in an encounter at Macdonald Cartier Airport, in Ottawa, Canada.

Clapton: The Autobiography

Eric Clapton: The Autobiography, was released on October 9, 2007 by The Random House Group, includes his own photographs and covers Eric's life so far.

Clapton's guitars

Clapton's choice of electric guitars has been as notable as the man himself, and alongside Hank Marvin, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, Clapton has exerted a crucial and widespread influence in popularising particular models of the electric guitar.

With the Yardbirds, Clapton played a Fender Telecaster and a 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 Gibson ES-335 again. The aforementioned 1964 ES-335 had a storied career. Clapton used it at the last Cream show in November, 1968. It was also used during Blind Faith, played sparingly for slide pieces in the 1970s, heard on Hard Times from Journeyman and the From the Cradle sessions and tour. 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.

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 Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs which in 1971 became the backup to the most famous of all Clapton's guitars, " Blackie." In 1970, Eric bought 6 Fender Stratocasters from the Sho-bud guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee. He gave one each to George Harrison, Steve Winwood and Pete Townshend. He used the best components of the remaining three to create "Blackie", which was Clapton's favourite stage guitar until its retirement in 1985. 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 thirty years of hard wear. One was presented to Eric upon the model's release.

Another moment involving Clapton's guitars and Pete Townshend resulted in Hard Rock Café's unique and gigantic collection of memorabilia. In 1971, Clapton, a regular at the original Hard Rock Café in Hyde Park, London, gave a signed guitar to the café 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 Café'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 Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck and 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 over $5 million for continuing support of 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. The total revenue garnered by this auction at Christie's was US $7,438,624.

Awards and honours

  • In 1983, Clapton was presented the Silver Clef Award from Princess Michael of Kent for outstanding contribution to British music.
  • Clapton was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to music in 1994.
  • In 2000 Clapton was 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.
  • Clapton was made a CBE in November 2004, receiving the award from the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace as part of the New Year's Honours list.
  • "Tears In Heaven" won three Grammy awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Male Pop Vocal Performance in 1993.

Clapton's music in film and TV

  • Back to the Future (1985) - Heaven Is One Step Away
  • The soundtrack of The Colour of Money (1986 film) contains "It's In The Way That You Use It". This song was written by Clapton along with Robbie Robertson. It appeared on the movie's soundtrack before Clapton's album was released.
  • The soundtrack of Lethal Weapon 2 (1988) features Clapton's version of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door".
  • The soundtrack of Goodfellas (1990 film) contains two of his songs: "Layla" (by Derek and the Dominos) and " Sunshine of Your Love" (by Cream). Curiously, the portion of "Layla" used is not his guitar riff, but Jim Gordon's piano coda. Cream would also play on the soundtrack of another Martin Scorsese/ Robert De Niro/ Joe Pesci Mob film, Casino (1995).
  • Clapton wrote the score to the film Rush (1991). That film featured Gregg Allman, whose brother, Duane, was a guest musician who helped Clapton record Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
  • Clapton contributed to the score of Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) and co-wrote and co-performed the song "It's Probably Me" with Sting and "Runaway Train" with Elton John.
  • Clapton contributed a solo to Richie Sambora's album " Stranger In This Town" (1991) on the track "Mister Bluesman."
  • The soundtrack of Phenomenon (1996 film) contains " Change the World"
  • Lord of War - "Cocaine"
  • Starsky & Hutch - "Cocaine"
  • Blow - "Strange Brew"
  • True Lies - "Sunshine of Your Love"
  • Lethal Weapon 4 - "Pilgrim"
  • School Of Rock - "Sunshine Of Your Love"
  • The Story of Us (1999) - In many parts of this movie, the song "(I) Get Lost" is played.
  • Friends (2000) - The One with the Proposal, Part 2, " Wonderful Tonight"
  • Friends (2002) - The One Where Rachel Has a Baby, Part Two, "River of Tears"
  • Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) - "Pilgrim" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?"
  • Bad News Bears - (2005) - "Cocaine"
  • Futurama - episode 30% Iron Chef - "Sunshine of your love"


  • Eric Clapton discography


2006 tour band

European Tour

  • Eric Clapton - guitar, vocals
  • Doyle Bramhall II - guitar, backing vocals
  • Derek Trucks - guitar
  • Chris Stainton - keyboards
  • Tim Carmon - keyboards
  • Willie Weeks - bass
  • Steve Jordan - drums
  • The Kick Horns ( Simon Clarke, Roddy Lorimer, and Tim Sanders) - brass
  • Michelle John - backing vocals
  • Sharon White - backing vocals

US / Canada - Eastern Region, Japan, Australia and New Zealand

  • Eric Clapton - guitar, vocals
  • Doyle Bramhall II - guitar, backing vocals
  • Derek Trucks - guitar
  • Chris Stainton - keyboards
  • Tim Carmon - keyboards
  • Willie Weeks - bass
  • Steve Jordan - drums
  • Michelle John - backing vocals
  • Sharon White - backing vocals

Support act for European and US / Canada : The Robert Cray Band

Previous band members

  • Albert Lee - guitar, vocals, backing vocals
  • Mark Knopfler - guitar
  • Andy Fairweather-Low - guitar, backing vocals
  • Phil Palmer - guitar
  • George Terry - guitar, backing vocals
  • Alan Darby - guitar
  • Gary Brooker - keyboards, backing vocals
  • Chuck Leavell - piano, keyboards
  • Greg Phillinganes - keyboards, Hammond organ, backing vocals
  • Billy Preston - Hammond B3 Organ
  • David Sancious - keyboards, guitar, harmonica, backing vocals
  • Chris Stainton - piano, keyboards
  • Dave Bronze - bass guitar
  • Nathan East - bass guitar, vocals, backing vocals
  • Pino Palladino - bass guitar
  • Carl Radle - bass guitar
  • Paulinho Da Costa - percussion
  • Phil Collins - drums, vocals
  • Ray Cooper - percussion
  • Jim Gordon - drums
  • Steve Ferrone - drums
  • Steve Gadd - drums
  • Ricky Lawson - drums
  • Andy Newmark - drums
  • Jamie Oldaker - drums
  • Yvonne Elliman - vocals, backing vocals, guitar
  • Katie Kissoon - backing vocals
  • Marcy Levy - vocals, backing vocals, harmonica
  • Tessa Niles - backing vocals
  • Joe Sample - piano, Wurlitzer
  • Dick Sims - keyboards
  • Donald "Duck" Dunn - bass guitar
  • Tessa Niles - vocals
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