Eric Clapton

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About Eric Clapton

In the mid-60s, the words “Clapton is God” became a familiar spray-painted sight around London, but throughout his career, the artist born Eric Patrick Clapton in 1945 has carried himself with the humility of a mere mortal. After all, this was a guy who left British Invasion trailblazers The Yardbirds in 1965 because he felt they were becoming too commercial. Never one for the outsized theatrics of peers like Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page, Clapton favored a more graceful style that mainlined the pain and longing at the heart of the blues. Since the late '60s, however, that purism has been balanced by a trendsetting savvy: With Cream, Clapton drafted the blueprints for psych rock and heavy metal; as a solo artist in the ‘70s, he imported reggae into the mainstream by covering Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” and shaped the arena-rock canon with his tough-as-nails take on JJ Cale’s “Cocaine.” But while several of his biggest hits have been reinterpretations, Clapton has channeled his own struggles into unforgettable moments of emotional bloodletting. Hiding behind the alias of Derek and the Dominoes, he exorcised his guilt over falling for his best friend George Harrison’s wife, Patti, through the immortal classic-rock warhorse “Layla,” while decades later, he grieved the death of his four-year-old son Conor in the 1991 acoustic elegy “Tears in Heaven.” The latter song—and his Grammy-dominating MTV Unplugged set from the same era—heralded Clapton’s elder statesman phase, during which he has reasserted his dedication to the blues through Robert Johnson tribute albums and collaborations with BB King, while crossing over to the adult-contemporary charts via the Babyface-produced hymn “Change the World.” But Clapton’s multifaceted legacy lives on through modern-day guitar heroes like John Mayer and Gary Clark Jr., who likewise wield their serious chops in service of soulful, straight-from-the-heart pop.

London, England
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