Eric Clapton has been the epitome of a “guitar hero” for over 50 years since the days of the original British music invasion. He turns 76 today, so it’s a great opportunity to look back at classic moments from his career.
‘Clapton is God’
Clapton joined The Yardbirds in 1963, and the group found Top 10 success with the single “For Your Love” in 1965. Unfortunately, the song didn’t even feature a guitar solo, and he quickly quit the band due to its turn toward pop music.
After a stint in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, he formed Cream, the original rock power trio. With Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums, the group was famous for long, improvisational jams on blues standards and original songs. “Clapton is God” was frequently seen spraypainted on walls throughout London during this period in his career.
In the video below, the band performs seminal blues guitar player Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” with their own high-intensity rock arrangement.
Eric Clapton is ‘Wonderful Tonight’
After Cream broke up in 1968, Clapton cycled through a series of bands: rock supergroup Blind Faith, swamp rockers Delaney and Bonnie, and his Southern blues-rock band Derek and the Dominoes. Once he launched his solo career in the 1970s, earlier guitar histrionics were replaced with breezier pop-rock tunes.
Clapton had multiple hits in the ’70s including “I Shot the Sheriff, “Lay Down Sally,” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” One of the most famous was “Wonderful Tonight,” which detailed his star-crossed relationship with Patty Boyd Harrison, the ex-wife of Beatle George Harrison.
Back to the Blues
In the 1990s, Clapton returned to blues music and released even more acclaimed albums. 1994’s “From the Cradle,” his 12th solo album, was a collection of blues standards including “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “It Hurts Me Too.” The album won a Grammy for best traditional blues album and also received a nomination for album of the year.
In this video, Clapton plays with blues legends B.B. King and Buddy Guy in 2005 at Guy’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1999, Clapton founded the Crossroads Guitar Festival, which brings together blues, country and pop musicians. Held on an irregular basis, performers have ranged from Bo Diddley to Vince Gill to his one-time girlfriend Sheryl Crow.
Despite no longer being the new guitar phenom on the block, Clapton shows no signs of slowing down. In 2018, he released an album of Christmas songs with blues arrangements and undoubtedly has more music in the works.