ERIC CLAPTON – PERFORMER
Eric Clapton is a living British rock guitarist and musician of legendary fame. A Grammy-award winner and a monumental figure in rock music, Eric Clapton is known for his virtuoso guitar rendition. He has been immensely successful in receiving acclaims from critics and fans alike. Clapton was a major contributor to the development of rock music in the 1960s, a period when he teamed up with the Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers, Blind Faith, Cream and Derek and the Dominos. Being a blues music aficionado, Eric Clapton’s musical style, though marked by varying phases, remained rooted in the blues. Clapton’s rock classic Layla was composed during his sojourn with the Derek and the Dominos. Eric Clapton solo hit numbers include ‘After Midnight’, and the cover version of Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot The Sheriff’. The 1980s and 90s lapped Clapton with more critical as well as public acclaim for a string of hits, which included his highly popular ‘Tears in Heaven’, a composition that evolved from his personal tragedy – the demise of his young son.
Eric Clapton Biography
Eric Clapton was born as Eric Patrick Clapton in Surrey, England on March 30, 1945, as an illegitimate offspring of Patricia Molly Clapton and Edward Fryer, a Canadian soldier. Patricia abandoned Clapton to be reared by his grandparents when Fryer returned to Canada to his wife. Clapton grew under a deliberately created misconception that his maternal grand parents - Jack and Rose Clapp – were his parents, and that his biological mother Patricia Molly Clapton was his sister. His lived with the misconception till he was nine. The Clapton surname is from his mother’s first husband Reginald Clapton.
Childhood & Early Life
Eric Clapton was average academically but the tune of the guitar lured him away from academics, and he was often found bound to a guitar rather than books. Rose Clapp presented him his first guitar on his thirteenth birthday, increasing propinquity with music. His journey through adolescence saw his growing interest for the guitar and the American blues music. Inspired by famous American blues artists such as B.B King, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker, Clapton began devoting himself to his guitar almost full-time, and this consequently led to a drop in his academic results. This led to his failure in Kingston College of Art where he was pursuing stained glass design. He moved to London, where he had to earn his livelihood as a manual labor. This however, did not relinquish his passion for music. He began playing in pubs and clubs with an electric guitar he had persuaded his grand parents to buy.
Clapton’s Musical Odyssey
Eric Clapton & The Yardbirds
Eric Clapton’s music journey began with his induction into the Roosters band, which however, disbanded soon. He later performed with several other British blue bands, but encountered fame only when he teamed up with The Yardbirds. He was recommended for the band by Keith Relf, his classmate at Arts College and the lead vocal for The Yardbirds. Clapton achieved international acclaim during this stint with The Yardbirds, and was nicknamed ‘Slowhand’ during his stint with this band owing to his string-bending blues riffs. Clapton had two albums with The Yardbirds – a live album called Five Live Yardbirds, released in 1964, and ‘For Your Love’, the title track of which was a top two chart buster in England in 1965. The success of ‘For Your Love’ in the USA propelled The Yardbirds to shift to a different music genre from blues much in favor of the American pop. But Clapton’s passion for the blues refused this shift and he quit the band in 1965.
Eric Clapton & Bluesbreakers
Clapton’s separation from The Yardbirds was immediately followed by his induction into John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, a music sojourn that elevated Clapton to the peak of success. Mayall set Clapton free to explore and experiment his blues style, which unfolded a new guitar talent to the world. Eric Clapton’s guitar enthralled music lovers, and gave an impetus to the band’s popularity. The album ‘Bluesbreakers: John Mayall with Eric Clapton, which was released in 1966, occupied sixth position in the British pop chart list, and made Clapton instantly famous. At the age of 21, Clapton was regarded a guitar virtuoso, and it was during this period that his fans began to deify him with graffiti proclaiming ‘Clapton is God’.
Eric Clapton’s Cream
Eric Clapton quit from the Bluesbreakers in July 1966 and teamed up with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce to form a band of his own called Cream. Eric Clapton’s Cream was not a pure blues brand, and was evolved by Clapton to quench his thirst for more experimentation and improvisation of the traditional rock and blues music. The band gave its first performance in Surrey at a jazz and blues festival.
It was in 1966 that they gained acceptance with their debut single ‘Wrapping Paper’, which hit the 34th place in UK’s top chartbusters. However the subsequent single ‘I Feel Free’ was more popular hitting the eleventh spot in UK’s chartbusters. They were lapped with more laurels for their debut album ‘Fresh Cream’, released simultaneously. This album was an enormous success in the UK hitting the top-ten list at number 6. The album also became popular in the US where it occupied 39th position in the music charts.
‘Strange Brew’ was the band’s first single that gained success making it to UK’s top 17 songs. It was their second album, ‘Disraeli Gears’, which showered them with enormous success. Cream’s ‘Disraeli Gears’ was a world-wide hit hitting the 4th spot in the US top chartbuster list, and 5th spot in the UK music charts. The album’s success paved way for the success of ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’, one of the tracks in the album. Success followed with ‘Wheels of Fire’, a double live album released in August 1968. The Cream trio became superstars, and the band was placed in the league of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Classic rock hits such as ‘Crossroads’ and ‘White Room’ were the tracks from ‘Fresh Cream’ and ‘Disraeli Gears’.
Eric Clapton & Blind Faith
Cream announced its disbandment in 1968. Tension due to fissures within the band coupled with drug addiction by all its members put an end to this super-group. Before parting ways the band carried out a farewell tour, and released its parting album ‘Goodbye’, which hit the number two spot in the US music charts.
Clapton’s next band was Blind Faith where he teamed up with former associate Ginger Baker, bassist Rick Grech, and ex-Traffic member Steve Winwood. The band has to its credit only one self-titled album, which it released in 1969. The band became popular through its free concert staged in London's Hyde Park. However the band announced its decision to quit after a 6-week tour in the US. ‘Presence Of The Lord’ is considered the most noted Eric Clapton’s song with Blind Faith.
After disbandment of Blind Faith, Clapton played for Plastic Ono Band, which, however, was short-lived. His next venture was a debut self-titled solo album ‘Eric Clapton’. The album, though failed to extract an overwhelming response, was successful enough to find audiences for its track ‘After Midnight’.
Eric Clapton & Derek and the Dominos
Clapton formed Derek and the Dominos in 1970. In the summer of 1970, the band released ‘Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs’, a new double album. This album was a portrayal of Clapton’s love for Patti Harrison, wife of his friend ex-Beatle George Harrison.
By the early 1970s, Clapton addiction to heroin was becoming uncontrollable. Clapton’s addiction was fueled by the death of his two closest friends Duane Allman and Jimi Hendrix. While Duane Allman, who collaborated with the band Derek and the Dominos died in an accident, Jimi Hendrix met his end due to an overdose of drugs.
Clapton resurged from his addiction to heroin after going through a controversial electro-acupuncture treatment. In January 1973, he staged a comeback concert. ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’, his second solo album released in 1974 made it to the number one position on music charts.
Success once again followed with his remake of ‘I Shot the Sheriff’, the Bob Marley song. The rest of 1970s saw many more albums by Clapton. Slowhand, released in 1977, was his most popular composition. It included the hits ‘Lay Down Sally’, ‘Cocaine’ and ‘Wonderful Tonight’.
During the early half of 1980s, Clapton managed to release five solo albums despite his new addiction – drinking. Clapton’s works in this period - ‘Just One Night’ was released in 1980, ‘Another Ticket’ in 1981, ‘Money and Cigarettes’ in 1983, ‘Behind the Sun’ in 1985, and ‘August’ was released in 1986.
Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’
Clapton received his first Grammy for ‘Bad Love’ from his ‘Journeyman’ album in 1990. However 1990 and 1991 proved to be tragic periods for Clapton. In 1990, Clapton lost his close pals, which included guitar virtuoso Stevie Ray Vaughan to a helicopter crash. In 1991, he was hit by yet another loss, the tragic death of his 4-year-old son, Conor, due to a fall from a 53- storey window of a Manhattan high-rise apartment. Clapton had been getting ready to pick up his son for a luncheon when he received the news of the tragedy.
Clapton composed ‘Tears in Heaven’ as a tribute to his lost son. The movie ‘Rush’ had the song in its sound track. ‘Unplugged’, Clapton’s highest grosser, and the 1993 Grammy winner, also included this song. The success of ‘Unplugged’ encouraged Clapton to return to his much-loved blues style, and in 1994, he released his blues album ‘From the Cradle’. This album received both critical acclaim as well as commercial success.
1996 witnessed the release of Clapton’s ‘Crossroads 2: Live in the '70s’, followed by ‘Retail Therapy’. Through the latter, Clapton forayed into new-age music - techno-jazz -, which, however, elicited mixed reviews. He received two Grammy awards in 1997 (best male pop vocal performance, and record of the year) for his ‘Change the World’.
‘Pilgrim’, Clapton’s latest project to-date, was released in March 1998. This album contains almost all of Eric Clapton’s original songs, the prominent numbers being ‘Circus’ and ‘My Father’s Eyes’, which were written in memory of his son in 1992.
Though Clapton’s ‘Pilgrim’ was considered melancholic by a few, his varying music style involving a hybrid of blues and rock has been accepted by the others.
Clapton’s Personal Life
Clapton’s personal life was a journey with several tragic phases. His music provided an outlet for his emotions, which can be witnessed in many of his popular compositions. He emerged from his quagmire of addiction to drugs and drink, and battled other tragedies through his music.
Clapton married his love interest Patti Harrison, wife of his friend, ex-Beatle George Harrison, in 1979. Patti had been living with Clapton after her divorce from George Harrison in 1974. He entered into a relationship with Yvonne Kelly even while married to Pattie. Kelly had a girl, later named Ruth, in January 1985. Kelly returned to England with her daughter after she lost her livelihood in a recording studio due to Hurricane Hugo that hit Montserrat in 1989. Clapton’s life was transformed in 1986 when Lori Del Santo, an Italian actress, delivered Clapton’s son Conor; however this joyous event marked an end to Clapton-Patti marriage as she subsequently separated from Clapton and filed for divorce.