Music: Eric Clapton

Would you know my name if I saw you in Heaven?
Would it be the same if I saw you in Heaven?
I must be strong, and carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong here in Heaven
— "Tears in Heaven"

Eric Patrick Clapton (born 30 March 1945) is one of those artists who can find great success in his solo efforts or as part of a band. He ranked second in Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He's played a variety of genres, from blues to psychedelic to pop and even reggae numbers. His influence is felt across pop, blues, and rock, with multiple chart and critical successes.

Clapton has been part of numerous bands throughout his career. His first major band was The Yardbirds. He replaced founding lead guitarist Anthony "Top" Topham and he was with them for 2 years - 1963 to 1965. It was during this time in his career he gained the nickname "Slowhand," coming from his habit of changing the strings on his guitar on-stage in concert whenever they happened to break. While waiting for him finish the process, the audience would engage in a "slow clap," and thus his nickname was born (although other sources suggest a more complimentary story; he got the nickname for his trademark wide, slow vibrato). Clapton quit The Yardbirds because at the time he was a blues purist and he felt that with For Your Love, the band was selling out. Clapton was replaced by Jeff Beck.

After his time with The Yardbirds, he briefly joined John Mayall And The Bluesbreakers, but left after a few months. He only recorded one album with them: Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton, also nicknamed Beano, but it was a legendary one. The whole Clapton Is God thing started with the release of this album. How important was it? Judge for yourself, but Jimi Hendrix said it was his biggest inspiration.

It was in 1966 that Clapton formed his first supergroup: Powerhouse. With the likes of Jack Bruce and Steve Winwood, their discography consists of just three officially released songs on an artist compilation called What's Shakin'. This was immediately followed by Cream, with Bruce and Ginger Baker. Cream brought Clapton his first success in America with the songs "Sunshine Of Your Love", "White Room" and "Crossroads." They were also legendary for their long jams and high musical capability. Back when they existed, they were the top selling live act, beating out Hendrix. Clapton then formed Blind Faith with Baker, Steve Winwood and Ric Grech. A short-lived but critically acclaimed band, they released one album before breaking up, and Clapton joined Delaney And Bonnie And Friends for a short time. Finally, Clapton teamed up with Duane Allman for his next ensemble, Derek And The Dominos. There he had his next big hit, "Layla", which is generally considered to be his Magnum Opus. After the band's disintegration, Clapton finally went solo. Two of main hits on his own, "I Shot The Sheriff" and "Cocaine" were both covers.

One of his most notable performances came in the early 90s on MTV's Unplugged series. There he performed acoustic versions of "Layla" and "Tears in Heaven," which was written in grief after his son's death in 1991.

Clapton has the distinct accomplishment of having made guest appearances on solo albums released by all four ex-Beatles over the years; John Lennon's Live Peace In Toronto and Sometime In New York City; Paul McCartney's Kisses On The Bottom; Ringo Starr's Ringo Rama, and numerous George Harrison albums, as well as a Beatles group album (The White Album, contributing the solo to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps").

Studio Discography:

  • 1970 - Eric Clapton
  • 1974 - 461 Ocean Boulevard
  • 1975 - There's One In Every Crowd
  • 1976 - No Reason To Cry
  • 1977 - Slowhand
  • 1978 - Backless
  • 1981 - Another Ticket
  • 1983 - Money And Cigarettes
  • 1985 - Behind The Sun
  • 1985 - Edge Of Darkness
  • 1986 - August
  • 1989 - Journeyman
  • 1992 - Rush
  • 1994 - From The Cradle
  • 1998 - Pilgrim
  • 2000 - Riding With The King note 
  • 2001 - Reptile
  • 2004 - Me And Mr. Johnson
  • 2004 - Sessions For Robert J
  • 2005 - Back Home
  • 2006 - The Road To Escondido note 
  • 2010 - Clapton
  • 2013 - Old Sock
  • 2014 - The Breeze: An Appreciation Of JJ Cale

Live Discography:

  • 1973 - Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert
  • 1975 - E.C. Was Here
  • 1980 - Just One Night
  • 1983 - Time Pieces Vol.II Live In The Seventies
  • 1991 - 24 Nights
  • 1992 - Unplugged
  • 1996 - Crossroads 2: Live In The Seventies
  • 2002 - One More Car, One More Rider
  • 2009 - Live From Madison Square Garden note 
  • 2011 - Play The Blues Live From Jazz At Lincoln Center note 
  • 2013 - Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 note 

Eric Clapton and his work provide examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: He was a huge drinker from the 1970's until he got clean in 1987. Clapton related in his autobiography how he once played an entire concert on his back with the microphone lying next to him because he was too drunk to stand.
  • Blasphemous Praise: Clapton was a subject of this, with some graffiti in London saying "Clapton is God."
  • Breakup Breakout: Averted: some rock fans who know him from The Yardbirds, Cream, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Derek And The Dominos hate his solo music.
  • The Casanova: He is a Rock Star, after all. In addition to romancing the wives of other Rock Stars, some of his more notable relationships include Janis Joplin and supermodel (and former French First Lady) Carla Bruni. Sheryl Crow's "My Favourite Mistake" is allegedly about him.
  • The Cover Changes The Gender: Some King and Queen-swapping goes on in "Change the World", originally sung by Wynonna.
  • Defeat Equals Friendship: Blind Faith spent its entire tour under-performing expectations, blown away at every stop by opening act Delaney and Bonnie. Clapton responded by disbanding the group and joining the under-card as a backing guitarist for their subsequent tour, even recruiting George Harrison into the fold. The ensuing Live Album, On Tour With Eric Clapton, effectively broke the latter into the mainstream.
  • Dream Team: Cream was considered a super-group, as was Powerhouse, Blind Faith and Derek And The Dominos. Clapton also appeared with The Louisiana Gator-Boys in Blues Brothers 2000 with Bo Diddley, Dr. John, B.B. King, Gary U.S. Bonds, and Jeff Baxter.
    • "The Palpitations", a one-off group that backed him in his 1973 comeback show, included Pete Townshend, Ronnie Wood, and Steve Winwood.
    • In 1968, he was part of a one-time super-group called "The Dirty Mac" With John Lennon, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Amazing.
    • His late '80's band of Clapton, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Greg Phillanganes and Phil Collins can be considered as such, too.
  • Epic Rocking: "Layla" and Cream as a whole.
  • Evolving Music: "Layla." First he performed it with Derek And The Dominos. Then, when he did a solo unplugged performance for MTV, he did a much slower and soulful rendition of it. Later, he and Wynton Marsalis performed it in a New Orleans-styled jazz blues style.
    • "After Midnight" went through the same evolution: uptempo original, then a slower re-recording that became popular in its own right. Clapton may have taken a cue from the song's composer, J. J. Cale, who did a bluesier re-recording of it after Clapton's first version became a hit.
  • Fake Band: The Louisiana Gator Boys, which Eric Clapton was a part of in Blues Brothers 2000.
  • Friendly Rival: To Jimi Hendrix.
  • Grief Song: Try listening to "Tears In Heaven" without crying.
  • Gun Nut: Apparently, he's one of the few British ones.
  • I Call It "Vera": He tends to name his guitars, and has both a "Blackie" and a "Brownie." Guess what colour they are.
  • Love Triangle: He was in love with George Harrison's wife Pattie Boyd, and eventually ran off with her, though the relationship didn't last. Surprisingly, the two men's friendship survived the drama.
  • Mondegreen: This may be how "Derek And The Dominos" got its name. Supposedly, they were originally "Eric and the Dynamos", but someone misheard it.
  • Obsession Song: A whole slew of 'em, and they're all about Pattie Boyd. "Layla" is the most famous example.
  • Rearrange the Song: On his Unplugged album, he did a soulful rendition of his hit with Derek And The Dominos, "Layla". His version of "Crossroads" has been covered many times.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: His second version of "After Midnight" was used in a late '80s commercial for Michelob beer.
    • "Wonderful Tonight" has been used in a Super Bowl advertisement.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Clapton struggled for years with heroin addiction and alcoholism. His drying out was so prolonged and painful he had to learn how to play the guitar all over again.
  • Something Blues: "Bell Bottom Blues", with Derek And The Dominos.
  • Spiritual Successor / Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Clapton at least considers Derek Trucks as one for the late Duane Allman, to the point where touring with Trucks as a sideman drove him to play the entire Layla And Other Love Songs album most nights.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Toward the end of "It's In The Way That You Use It".
  • Unplugged Version: As mentioned in the description, one of Clapton's best known performances was for MTV Unplugged, where he recorded acoustic versions of "Layla" and "Tears in Heaven," both of which ended up almost as well-known as the originals. See Adaptation Displacement for more on "Layla."
  • Unrequited Love: The theme of the entire Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs album. Patti Boyd did not return his feelings for four years. This contributed to his heroin addiction and career hiatus during the same period.
    • There's also "Next Time You See Her" from Slowhand.