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
Just call him Slowhand. Eric Clapton 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 group was The Yardbirds
, who he was with for 2 years from 1963 to to '65. 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). After his time with the Yardbirds, he briefly joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, but left after a few months. He only recorded one album with them 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 joined his first supergroup: Cream
, with Jack 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 played in a few smaller bands, none lasting very long, before teaming up with Duane Allman for his next ensemble, Derek and the Dominoes. There he had his next big hit, "Layla." 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
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").
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 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 Favorite 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.
- Creator Breakdown: After the death of his son, Conor, in 1991. He came back with "Tears in Heaven."
- And "Layla", his way of shouting out the pain from his unrequited love to Pattie Boyd, then wife of his buddy George Harrison.
- What's more, he's admitted that pretty much everything he wrote for Derek and the Dominos is about Patti in some way.
- Dream Team: Cream was considered a supergroup, as was Derek & 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 supergroup 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 & the Dominos. Then, when he did a solo unplugged performance for MTV, he did a much slower and soulful rendition of it.
- "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 color 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.
- Mondegreen: This may be how "Derek and the Dominoes" 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 & the Dominos, "Layla". His version of Crossroads has been covered many times.
- Repurposed Pop Song: "Wonderful Tonight" has been used in a Superbowl 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.
- 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" 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
- Word of..er, God claims that his addictions were at least partly to do with a false belief that in order to play the blues with feeling and proper perspective, he needed to live the reckless lifestyles of his blues heroes, and that though the situation with Patti was painful, it had little to do with why Clapton took heroin or drank.