Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE (born 30 March 1945) is an English guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. Clapton 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 fourth 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.
In the mid sixties, Clapton left the Yardbirds to play blues with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. In his one-year stay with Mayall, Clapton gained the nickname "Slowhand", and graffiti in London declared "Clapton is God." Immediately after leaving Mayall, Clapton formed with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce, the power trio, Cream, in which Clapton played sustained blues improvisations and "arty, blues-based psychedelic pop." For most of the seventies, Clapton's output bore the influence of the mellow style of J.J. Cale and the reggae of Bob Marley. His version of Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" helped gain reggae a mass market. Two of his most popular recordings were "Layla", recorded by Derek and the Dominos, and Robert Johnson's "Crossroads", recorded by Cream. A recipient of seventeen Grammy Awards, in 2004, Clapton was awarded a CBE 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.
LIFE AND CAREER
Eric Patrick Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England, the son of 16 year old Patricia Molly Clapton (b. 7 January 1929) and Edward Walter Fryer (21 March 1920 - 15 May 1985), a 24-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, 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 Clapton's real surname is Clapp (Reginald Cecil Clapton is the name of Rose's first husband, Eric Clapton's maternal grandfather). Years later, his mother married another Canadian soldier, and moved to Canada, leaving young Eric with his grandparents in distant Surrey.
Clapton received an acoustic Hoyer guitar, made in Germany, for his 13th 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 practiced long hours to learn chords of blues music he listened to, 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.
After leaving school in 1961, 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 had advanced so far that by the age of sixteen people were starting to notice him. Around this time Clapton began busking around Kingston, Richmond and the West End of London. In 1962, Clapton started performing as a duo with fellow blues enthusiast David Brock in the pubs around Surrey. When he was 17 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 through August 1963. In October of that year, Clapton did a brief seven gig stint with Casey Jones & The Engineers.
The Yardbirds and the Bluesbreakers
In October 1963, Clapton joined The Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band, 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 album, 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 this time period that Clapton's Yardbirds rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja recalled that whenever Clapton broke a guitar string during a concert, he would stay on stage and replace it. The English audiences would wait out the delay by doing what is called a "slow handclap". Clapton told his official biographer, Ray Coleman, that, "My nickname of 'Slowhand' came from Giorgio Gomelsky. He coined it as a good pun. He kept saying I was a fast player, so he put together the slow handclap phrase into Slowhand as a play on words".
Still musically devoted to the blues, Clapton was opposed to the Yardbirds' move toward a pop-oriented sound, in part, because "For Your Love" had been written by pop songwriter-for-hire Graham Gouldman, who had also written hit songs for teen pop outfit Herman's Hermits as well as the radio-friendly music of 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.
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. It was during his second Bluesbreakers stint that his passionate playing established Clapton's name as the best blues guitarist on the club circuit. Although Clapton gained world fame for his playing on the influential album, Blues Breakers, this album was not released until Clapton had left the Bluesbreakers for good. 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 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". The phrase began to appear in other areas of Islington throughout the mid-60s.
Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in July 1966 (to be replaced by Peter Green) and formed Cream, one of the earliest supergroups, 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 not well known 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, songwriter and 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 its enduring legend with the high-volume blues jamming and extended solos of their live shows.
In early 1967, Clapton's status as Britain's top guitarist was rivalled by the emergence of Jimi Hendrix, an acid rock-infused guitarist who used wailing feedback and effects pedals to create new sounds for the instrument. 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". In return, top UK stars including Clapton, Pete Townshend, and members of 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.
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 themselves as an influential power trio.
In 28 months, Cream had become a commercial success, selling millions of records and playing throughout the U.S. and Europe. They redefined the instrumentalist's role in rock and were one of the first blues-rock bands to emphasise musical virtuosity and lengthy jazz-style improvisation sessions. 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 "Cross Road Blues". Though 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 supergroup was destined to be short-lived. Drug and alcohol use escalated tension between the three members and the 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 U.S. tour was another significant factor in the trio's demise, and it affected Clapton profoundly as well.
Cream's farewell album, Goodbye, featured live performances recorded at The Forum, Los Angeles, 19 October 1968, and was released shortly after Cream disbanded in 1968; it also featured the studio single "Badge", co-written by Clapton and George Harrison. Clapton had met Harrison and become 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's playing on Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from the Beatles' White Album. In the same year of release as the White Album, Harrison released his solo debut Wonderwall Music, becoming the first of many Harrison solo records to feature Clapton on guitar. Though friends, Clapton would go largely uncredited for his contributions to Harrison's albums due to contractual restraints. The pair would often play live together as each other's guest. A year after Harrison's death in 2001, Clapton helped organise the tribute concert, for which he was musical director.
Cream briefly reunited in 1993 to perform at the ceremony inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; however, 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 more 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.
Blind Faith & Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
Clapton's next group Blind Faith (1969), was composed of Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood of Traffic and Ric Grech of Family, and yielded one LP and one arena-circuit tour. The super group debuted before 100,000 fans in London's Hyde Park on 7 June 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 a 15-minute jam entitled "Do What You Like". 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.
Clapton subsequently toured as a sideman for an act that had opened for Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. He also played two dates as a member of The Plastic Ono Band that fall, including a recorded performance at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in September 1969 released as the album Live Peace in Toronto 1969. On 15 December 1969, Clapton performed with John Lennon, George Harrison and others as the Plastic Ono Band at a fundraiser for UNICEF in London.
Delaney Bramlett encouraged Clapton in his singing and writing. During the summer of 1969, Clapton and Bramlett contributed to the Music From Free Creek "supersession" project. Clapton, appearing as "King Cool" for contractual reasons, played with Dr. John on three songs, joined by Bramlett on one track.
Using the Bramletts' backing group and an all-star cast of session players (including Leon Russell and Stephen Stills), Clapton recorded his first solo album during two brief tour hiatuses, fittingly named Eric Clapton. Delaney Bramlett co-wrote six of the songs with Clapton, and Bonnie Bramlett co-wrote "Let It Rain". The album also yielded the unexpected U.S. #18 hit, J. J. Cale's "After Midnight". Clapton went with Delaney and Bonnie from the stage 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 other artists including Dr. John, Leon Russell, Plastic Ono Band, Billy Preston and Ringo Starr.
Derek and the Dominos
With the intention to counteract the "star" cult faction that had begun to form around him, Clapton assembled a new band composed of Delaney & 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 form a starring role, and functioned well as a member of an ensemble. Naming the band, "Eric Clapton and Friends" at first, the name "Derek and the Dominos" was a fluke. It occurred when the band's provisional name of "Del and the Dynamos" was misread as Derek and the Dominos. Clapton's biography also states that Ashton 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 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. This album contained the monster-hit single, love song "Layla", inspired by the classical poet of Persian literature, Nezami Ganjavi's The Story of Layla 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 could not marry her.
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 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 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 met first on-stage, then played all night in the studio and became friends. Duane first added his slide guitar to "Tell the Truth" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out". In four days, the five-piece Dominos recorded "Key to the Highway", "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" (a blues standard popularised by Freddie King (amongst other blues players)), and "Why Does Love Got to be So Sad". When September came around, Duane briefly left the sessions for gigs with his own band, and the four-piece Dominos recorded "I Looked Away", "Bell Bottom Blues", and "Keep on Growing". Duane returned 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, "It's Too Late" was recorded.
The album was heavily blues-influenced and featured the combination of twin lead guitars of Allman and Clapton, with Allman's slide guitar as a key ingredient of their sound.
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 cover of "Little Wing" as a tribute to Hendrix. On 17 September 1970, one day before Hendrix's death, Clapton had purchased a left-handed Fender 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. The shaken group undertook a U.S. tour without Allman, who had returned to The Allman Brothers Band. Despite Clapton's later admission that the tour took place amidst a veritable blizzard of drugs and alcohol, it resulted in the live double album In Concert. The band had recorded several tracks for a second album in London during the spring of 1971 (five of which were released on the Eric Clapton box-set Crossroads), but the results were mediocre.
A second record was in the works when a clashing of egos took place and Clapton walked, thus disbanding the group. Allman was later killed in a motorcycle accident on 29 October 1971. Although Radle would remain Clapton's bass player until the summer of 1979 (Radle died in May 1980 from the effects of alcohol and narcotics), it would be 2003 before Clapton and Whitlock appeared together again (Clapton guested on Whitlock's appearance on the Later with Jools Holland show). Another tragic footnote to the Dominos story was the fate of drummer Jim Gordon, who was an undiagnosed schizophrenic and years later murdered his mother during a psychotic episode. Gordon was confined to 16-years-to-life imprisonment, later being moved to a mental institution, where he remains today.
Clapton's career successes in the 1970s were in stark contrast to his personal life, which was troubled by romantic longings and drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to his (temporarily) unrequited and intense attraction to 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 1971 (where he passed out on stage, was revived, and continued his performance). 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, now partnered with Pattie (they would not actually marry until 1979) and no longer using 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 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 #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 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) and Slowhand, which featured "Wonderful Tonight" (another song inspired by Boyd) and a second J.J. Cale cover, "Cocaine". In 1976 he performed, alongside a string of notable guests, to pay tribute to the farewell performance of The Band, filmed in a Martin Scorsese documentary called the Last Waltz.
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. Many factors had influenced Clapton's comeback, including his "deepening commitment to Christianity", to which he had converted prior to his heroin addiction.
After an embarrassing fishing incident, Clapton finally called his manager and admitted he was an alcoholic. In January 1982, Roger and Clapton flew to Minneapolis-St. Paul; Clapton would be checked in at Hazelden Treatment Center, located in Center City, Minnesota. On the flight over, Clapton indulged himself in a great amount of drinks, for fear he may never be able to drink again. Clapton is quoted as saying from his autobiography, "In the lowest moments of my life, the only reason I didn't commit suicide was that I knew I wouldn't be able to drink anymore if I was dead. It was the only thing I thought was worth living for, and the idea that people were about to try and remove me from alcohol was so terrible that I drank and drank and drank, and they had to practically carry me into the clinic."
After being discharged, it was recommended by doctors of Hazelden that Clapton not partake in any activities that would act as triggers for his alcoholism or stress, until he was fully situated back at Hurtwood. A few months after his discharge, Clapton began working on his next album against the Hazelden doctors' orders. Working with Tom Dowd, Clapton produced what he thought as his "most forced" album to date, Money and Cigarettes.
In 1984, he performed on Pink Floyd member Roger Waters' 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". Clapton, now a seasoned charity performer, played at the Live Aid concert on 13 July 1985. When offered a slot close to peak viewing hours, he was apparently flattered. As Clapton recovered 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 was suffused with Collins's trademark drum and horn sound and became Clapton's biggest seller in the UK to date, matching 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 Color 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's angry sound. This rebound kicked off Clapton's two-year period of touring with Collins and their August collaborates, bassist Nathan East and keyboard player/songwriter Greg Phillinganes. While on tour for August, two concert videos were recorded of the four-man band, Eric Clapton Live from Montreux and Eric Clapton and Friends. Clapton later remade "After Midnight" as a single and a promotional track for the Michelob beer brand, which had also marketed earlier songs by Collins and Steve Winwood. Clapton won a British Academy Television Award for his collaboration with Michael Kamen on the score for the 1985 BBC television thriller serial Edge of Darkness. In 1989, Clapton released Journeyman, an album which covered a wide range of styles including blues, jazz, soul and pop. Collaborators included George Harrison, Phil Collins, Daryl Hall, Chaka Khan, Mick Jones, David Sanborn and Robert Cray.
In 1984, while still married to Pattie Boyd, Clapton began a year-long relationship with Yvonne Kelly. The two had a daughter, Ruth, who was born in January 1985, but her existence was kept a secret by her parents. She was not publicly revealed as his child until 1991. Boyd criticised Clapton because he had not revealed the child's existence.
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 stories about Eric's secret daughter began as a result of newspaper articles published at the time. Clapton and Boyd divorced in 1988 following his affair with Italian model Lory Del Santo, who gave birth to their son Conor on 21 August 1986. Boyd herself was never able to conceive children, despite attempts at in vitro fertilisation. Their divorce was granted on grounds of "infidelity and unreasonable behaviour."
Clapton was known to date a host of beautiful women, including Krissy Wood, ex-wife of Ron Wood, actress Charlotte Martin, socialite Alice Ormsby-Gore, Paula Boyd, the younger sister of his future wife Pattie, singer Janis Joplin, singer Marianne Faithfull, Rock muses Catherine James, Cyrinda Fox and Geraldine Edwards, the inspiration for Penny Lane in Almost Famous, singer Rosanne Cash, the First Lady of France and former model Carla Bruni, and actresses Patsy Kensit, Sharon Stone and Alicia Witt.
The 1990s brought a series of 32 concerts to the Royal Albert Hall, such as the 24 Nights series of concerts that took place around January through February 1990, and February through March 1991. On 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 on impact after a fall 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", which was co-written by Will Jennings. At the 35th Grammy Awards, Clapton received a total of six Grammy Awards for the single "Tears in Heaven", and his Unplugged album. 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 United States.
In October 1992, Clapton was among the dozens of artists performing at Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration. Recorded at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the live two-disk CD/DVD captured a show full of celebrities performing classic Dylan songs, before ending with a few performances from Dylan himself. Despite the presence of 10 other guitarists on stage, including George Harrison, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn, Steve Cropper, Tom Petty, and Dylan, Clapton played the lead on a nearly 7-minute version of Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" as part of the finale.
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. 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 the 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 collaborations with Carlos Santana and B. B. King.
In 1996 Clapton had a relationship with singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow. They remain friends, and Clapton appeared as a guest on Sheryl Crow's Central Park Concert. The duo performed a Cream hit single "White Room". Later, Clapton and Crow performed an alternate version of "Tulsa Time" with other guitar legends at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in June 2007.
In 1998 Clapton, then 53, met 22-year-old administrative assistant Melia McEnery in Columbus, Ohio, at a party given for him after a performance. He quietly dated her for one year and went public with the relationship in 1999. They married on 1 January 2002 at St Mary Magdalene church in Clapton's birthplace, Ripley, and as of 2005 have three daughters, Julie Rose (13 June 2001), Ella May (14 January 2003), and Sophie Belle (1 February 2005).
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. On 29 November of that year the Concert for George was held at the Royal Albert Hall, a tribute to George Harrison who had died a year earlier of cancer. Clapton was a performer, and also the musical director. The concert featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Ravi Shankar, Gary Brooker, Billy Preston, Joe Brown and Dhani Harrison. In 2004, Clapton released two albums packed full of covers by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, Me and Mr. Johnson and Sessions for Robert J. The same year Rolling Stone ranked Clapton #53 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".
On 22 January 2005, Clapton performed in the Tsunami Relief Concert held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, in aid of the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. 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. In 2006 he invited Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II to join his band for his 2006–2007 world tour. Trucks is the third member of The Allman Brothers Band to tour supportng 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 in 1990 and 1991, as well as Clapton's 1992 U.S. tour.
On 20 May 2006, Clapton performed with Queen drummer Roger Taylor and former Pink Floyd bassist/songwriter Roger Waters at the Highclere Castle, in support of the Countryside Alliance. On 13 August 2006, Clapton made a guest appearance at the Bob Dylan concert in Columbus, Ohio, playing guitar on three songs in Jimmie Vaughan's opening act. A collaboration with guitarist J. J. Cale, titled The Road to Escondido, was released on 7 November 2006, featuring Derek Trucks and Billy Preston. The 14-track CD was produced and recorded by the duo in August 2005 in California. The chemistry between Trucks and Clapton convinced him to invite The Derek Trucks Band to open for Clapton's set on his 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival, with Trucks remaining on set afterward, performing with Clapton's band throughout his performances, and embarking on a world tour with him.
The rights to Clapton's official memoirs, written by Christopher Simon Sykes and published in 2007, were sold at the 2005 Frankfurt Book Fair for US$4 million.
On 26 February 2008, it was reported that North Korean officials had invited Clapton to play a concert in the communist state. According to reports, Clapton's management received the invitation and passed it on to the singer, who agreed in principle and suggested it take place sometime in 2009. Kristen Foster, a spokesperson, said, "Eric Clapton receives numerous offers to play in countries around the world," and "there is no agreement whatsoever for him to play in North Korea."
In 2007, Clapton learned more about his father, a Canadian soldier who left the UK after the war. Although Clapton's grandparents eventually told him the truth about his parentage, he only knew that his father's name was Edward Fryer. This was a source of disquiet for Clapton, as witnessed by his 1998 song "My Father's Eyes". A Montreal journalist named Michael Woloschuk researched Canadian Armed Forces service records and tracked down members of Fryer's family, finally piecing together the story. He learned 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 thanked Woloschuk in an encounter at Macdonald Cartier Airport, in Ottawa, Canada.
In February 2008, Clapton performed with his long-time friend Steve Winwood at Madison Square Garden and guested on his recorded single "Dirty City" on Winwood's album Nine Lives. The two former Blind Faith bandmates met again for a series of 14 concerts throughout the United States in June 2009.
Clapton's 2008 Summer Tour began on 3 May at the Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa Bay, Florida, and then moved to Canada, Ireland, England, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Poland, Germany and Monaco. On 28 June 2008, he headlined Saturday night for Hard Rock Calling 2008 in London's Hyde Park (previously Hyde Park Calling) with support from Sheryl Crow & John Mayer. In September 2008, Clapton performed at a private charity fundraiser for The Countryside Alliance at Floridita in Soho, London, that included such guests as the London Mayor Boris Johnson.
In March 2009, The Allman Brothers Band (amongst many notable guests), celebrated their 40th year, dedicating their string of concerts to the late Duane Allman on their annual run at the Beacon Theatre. Eric Clapton was one of the performers, with drummer Butch Trucks remarking that the performance was not the typical Allman Brothers experience, given the number and musical styles of the guests who were invited to perform. Songs like "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" were punctuated with others including "The Weight", with Levon Helm; Johnny Winter sitting in on Hendrix's "Red House" and "Layla". Two months later, on 4 May 2009 Clapton appeared as a featured guest at the Royal Albert Hall playing "Further on Up the Road" with Joe Bonamassa.
Clapton was scheduled to be one of the performers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th anniversary concert in Madison Square Garden on 30 October 2009, but cancelled due to gallstone surgery. Van Morrison (who also cancelled) said in an interview that he and Clapton were to do a "couple of songs" but that they would do something else together at "some other stage of the game".
Clapton performed a 2-night show with Jeff Beck at London's O2 Arena 13–14 February 2010. The two former Yardbirds extended their 2010 tour with stops at Madison Square Garden, Air Canada Centre and the Bell Centre in Montreal. Clapton performed a series of concerts in 11 cities throughout the United States from 25 February to 13 March 2010. His third European tour with Steve Winwood began on 18 May and ended 13 June. He then began a short North American tour lasting from 26 June to 3 July, starting with his third Crossroads Guitar Festival on 26 June in Bridgeview, Illinois. Clapton released a new studio album, Clapton, on 27 September 2010 in the United Kingdom and 28 September 2010 in the United States. On 17 November 2010, Clapton performed as guest on the Prince's Trust rock gala held at the Royal Albert Hall, supported by the house band for the evening which included Jools Holland, Midge Ure and Mark King.
Clapton cites Freddie King, B.B. King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, and Hubert Sumlin as guitar playing influence. Robert Johnson has influenced Clapton the most profoundly. In 2004 Clapton released CD and DVD entitled Sessions for Robert Johnson featuring Robert Johnson covers by Clapton on electric and acoustic guitars live and in rehearsal.
Clapton co-authored with others the book Discovering Robert Johnson, in which Clapton said Johnson was...
"...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."
Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton 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. He ranked fourth 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.
A number of guitarists that Clapton has influenced are: Richie Sambora, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, Duane Allman, Derek Trucks, Eddie Van Halen, Brian May, Orianthi, Brad Paisley, Jonny Buckland, Joe Don Rooney, Alex Lifeson, Jonny Lang, John Mayer, Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa, Davy Knowles and George Harrison.
Clapton's choice of electric guitars has been as notable as the man himself, and alongside Hank Marvin, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, Clapton exerted a crucial and widespread influence in popularising particular models of the electric guitar. With the Yardbirds, Clapton played a Fender Telecaster, a Fender Jazzmaster, a double-cutaway Gretsch 6120 and a 1964 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. Just before Cream's first U.S. appearance in 1967, Clapton's SG, Bruce's Fender VI, and Baker's drum head were all 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 1964 Cherry-Red Gibson ES-335 again. The aforementioned 1964 ES-335 had a storied career. Clapton used it at the last Cream show in November 1968 as well as with Blind Faith, played sparingly for slide pieces in the 1970s, heard on "Hard Times" from Journeyman, the Hyde Park live concert of 1996 and the From the Cradle sessions and tour of 1994/95. 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.
In July 1968, Clapton gave George Harrison a red, refinished Les Paul. In the following September, Clapton played the guitar on the Beatles' studio recording of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". 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. At the 1969 Blind Faith concert in Hyde Park, London Clapton played a Fender Custom Telecaster, which was fitted with Brownie's neck.
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 Eric Clapton which in 1974 became the backup to the most famous of all Clapton's guitars, "Blackie". In November 1970 Eric bought six Fender Stratocasters from the Sho-bud guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee while on tour with the Dominos. He gave one each to George Harrison, Steve Winwood and Pete Townshend.
Clapton assembled the best components of the remaining three to create "Blackie", which was his favourite stage guitar until its retirement in 1985. It was first played live 13 January 1973 at the Rainbow Concert. 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 years of hard wear. One was presented to Eric upon the model's release and used for three numbers during a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 17 May 2006.
In 1981, Clapton gave his signed Fender Lead II guitar to the Hard Rock Cafe to designate his favourite bar stool. Pete Townshend also donated his own Gibson Les Paul guitar, with a note attached: "Mine's as good as his! Love, Pete."
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 Rory Gallagher, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, 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 & Company. 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 more than $5 million for continuing support of the 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. His Lowden acoustic guitar sold for $41,825. The total revenue garnered by this auction at Christie's was US $7,438,624.
In 2010, Eric Clapton announced that he would be auctioning off over 150 items at a New York auction in 2011. Proceeds will benefit his Crossroads Centre in Antigua. Items include Clapton's guitar from the Cream reunion tour in 2005, speaker cabinets used in the early 1970s from his days with Derek and the Dominoes, and some guitars from Jeff Beck, J.J. Cale, and Joe Bonamassa. In March 2011 Clapton raised more than $2.15 million dollars when he auctioned off key items including a 1984 Gibson hollow body guitar, a Giovanni Versace suit from his 1990 concert at the Royal Albert Hall and a replica of the famous Fender Stratocaster, also known as "Blackie", which fetched more than $30,000. All proceeds from the auction are being donated to Clapton's Crossroads drug and rehabilitation centre in Antigua.
The "woman tone" is the informal term used by Clapton to refer to his distinctive mid- to late-1960s electric guitar sound, created using his Gibson SG solidbody guitar (with humbucking pick-ups) and a Marshall tube amplifier. It is an overdriven sound that is articulate yet thick. It is characterised by being quite distorted (or even achieved with a fuzz) but muted, in contrast to the bright and twangy distortion that most guitarists were using at the time. Many players have tried to duplicate it, usually without success, in part because Clapton's playing technique had a lot to do with the tone.
Among the techniques used to replicate Clapton's sound is a technique by which the amplifier's volume is turned up to full, while the guitar's tone knob is turned down to zero or one.
Perhaps the best examples of the "woman tone" are Clapton's famous riff and solo from his band Cream's 1967 hit "Sunshine of Your Love". Clapton has explained that he obtained the tone with his Gibson's tone control rolled all the way down, switching to the neck pick-up (closest to the fretboard) and the volume all the way up, with his distortion turned all the way up. The treble, mids and bass controls on the amplifier were also maxed out. Some versions of the "woman tone" may also have involved strategic positioning of Clapton's wah-wah pedal.
OTHER MEDIA APPEARANCES
Clapton frequently appears as a guest on the albums of other musicians. For example, he is credited on Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms album, as he lent Mark Knopfler one of his guitars for the album. He also played lead guitar and synthesiser on The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Roger Waters' debut solo album. Other media appearances include the Toots & the Maytals album True Love where he played guitar on the track "Pressure Drop". He can also be heard at the beginning of Frank Zappa's album, We're Only in It for the Money, repeating the phrase, "Are you hung up?" over and over again. In 1985, Clapton appeared on the charity concert Live Aid in Philadelphia with Phil Collins, Tim Renwick, Chris Stainton, Jamie Oldaker, Marcy Levy, Shaun Murphy and Donald 'Duck' Dunn. In 1988 he played with Dire Straits and Elton John at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute at Wembley Stadium and the Prince's Trust rock gala at the Royal Albert Hall. On 30 June 1990, Dire Straits, Clapton and Elton John made a guest appearance in the Nordoff-Robbins charity show held at Knebworth. In 1991, Clapton was featured on Richie Sambora's album, Stranger In This Town, in a song dedicated to him called "Mr. Bluesman". He also contributed guitar and vocals to "Runaway Train", a duet with Elton John on the latter's The One album the following year.
On 12 September 1996, Clapton played a party for Armani at New York City's Lexington Armory with Greg Phillinganes, Nathan East and Steve Gadd. Sheryl Crow appeared on one number, performing "Tearing Us Apart", a track from August, which was first performed by Tina Turner during the Prince's Trust All-Star Rock show in 1986. It was Clapton's sole US appearance that year, following the open-air concert held at Hyde Park with Dave Bronze, Andy Fairweather-Low, The Kick Horns, Jerry Portnoy, Chris Stainton and backing vocalists Katie Kissoon and Tessa Niles. The concert was taped and the footage was released both on VHS video cassette and later, on DVD.
Clapton was featured in the movie version of Tommy, the first full length rock opera written by The Who. The movie version gave Clapton a cameo appearance as the Preacher, performing Sonny Boy Williamson's song, "Eyesight to the Blind". He also appeared in Blues Brothers 2000 as one of the Louisiana Gator Boys. In addition to being in the band, he had a small speaking role. Clapton has also appeared in an advertisement for the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. In March 2007, Clapton appeared in an advertisement for RealNetwork's Rhapsody online music service. In 2010 Clapton started appearing as a spokesman for T-Mobile, advertising their MyTouch Fender cell phone.
Eric Clapton was again compared to God's image in the episode "Holy Crap!" of season two of That '70s Show when Eric Forman and Steven Hyde are made by their minister to draw God.
POLITICAL VIEWS AND ADVOCACY
Clapton is a supporter of the Countryside Alliance, has played in concerts to raise funds for the organisation and publicly opposed the Labour Party’s ban on fox hunting. A spokesperson for Clapton said: "Eric supports the Countryside Alliance. He doesn't hunt himself, but does enjoy rural pursuits such as fishing and shooting. He supports the Alliance's pursuit to scrap the ban on the basis that he doesn't agree with the state's interference with people's private pursuits."
Controversy over remarks on immigration
On 5 August 1976 Clapton provoked an uproar and lingering controversy when he spoke out against increasing immigration during a concert in Birmingham. Visibly intoxicated, Clapton voiced his support of controversial political candidate Enoch Powell and announced on stage that Britain was in danger of becoming a "black colony". Clapton was quoted telling the audience: "I think Enoch's right ... we should send them all back. Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!" The latter phrase was at the time a British National Front slogan. Clapton continued:
This incident, along with some explicitly pro-fascism remarks made around the same time by David Bowie as well as uses of Nazi-related imagery by Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux, were the main catalysts for the creation of Rock Against Racism, which occurred on 30 April 1978.
In response to his comments, rock photographer Red Saunders and others published an open letter in NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and the Socialist Worker. It read "Come on Eric... Own up. Half your music is black. You're rock music's biggest colonist". It also concluded, "P.S. Who shot the Sheriff, Eric? It sure as hell wasn't you!"
In an interview from October 1976 with Sounds magazine, Clapton remarked: "I thought it was quite funny actually. I don't know much about politics. I don't even know if it would be good or bad for him to get in. I don't even know who the Prime Minister is now. I just don't know what came over me that night. It must have been something that happened in the day but it came out in this garbled thing... I thought the whole thing was like Monty Python. There's this rock group playing on-stage and the singer starts talking about politics. It's so stupid. Those people who paid their money sittin' listening to this madman dribbling on and the band meanwhile getting fidgety thinking 'oh dear'."
In a 2004 interview with Uncut, Clapton referred to Powell as "outrageously brave", and stated that his "feeling about this has not changed", because the UK is still "... inviting people in as cheap labour and then putting them in ghettos." In 2004, Clapton told an interviewer for Scotland on Sunday, "There's no way I could be a racist. It would make no sense". In his 2007 autobiography, Clapton 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. Interesting, then, that 10 years later, I would be labelled a racist... Since then, I have learnt to keep my opinions to myself. Of course, it might also have had something to do with the fact that Pattie had just been leered at by a member of the Saudi royal family." In a December 2007 interview with Melvin Bragg on The South Bank Show, Clapton reiterated his support for Enoch Powell and again denied that Powell's views were "racist".
WEALTH AND ASSETS
In 2009, Philip Beresford, compiler of the Sunday Times Rich List, estimated Clapton's fortune as £120 million from his assets, including a £9m yacht, Va Bene, previously owned by F1 racing supremo Bernie Ecclestone, his back catalogue, his touring income and his Marshbrook holding company, which had earned him £110 million since 1989, making him one of the 20 richest residents of Surrey, England.
In 1982, he performed a concert before West Bromwich Albion player John Wile's testimonial game at the Hawthorns, and it is often reported by various sources that Clapton (despite being from London more than 100 miles away) is an Albion supporter. Credence for this notion can be taken from the cover pictures to the "Backless" solo album, where he is seen on the front cover to be wearing a football scarf; the rear cover photograph reveals the slogan "ALBION" on the scarf. It has also been reported that the club rejected his offer to invest cash in them around this time, and that he has since expressed more of an interest in Chelsea instead.