This is Biography Eric Patrick Clapp was born on 30 March 1945 in Ripley, Surrey (England ). An illegitimate child, his grandparents gave him his first guitar at the age of fourteen. Immediately captivated by the new instrument, which had only been electrified for a few years, he began to reproduce note for note the 78 rpm blues records that circulated around the house.
In 1963 he founded his first band, the “Roosters”, and it was already 24 carat blues. A few months later he was with Casey Jones And The Engineers and then the Yardbirds, who recruited him to replace Top Topham. During his two years with the group, he earned the nickname “Slowhand” and deepened the sound of the three Kings – B.B., Freddie and Albert – as well as that of Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.
In the mid-1960s there were signs on the walls of London saying ‘Clapton is God’. These were the years of the greatest virtuoso splendour of this absolute talent of the electric guitar, capable like few others of transmitting feeling and emotion from his six-string. Then came Jimi Hendrix and things changed, Eric Clapton’s role within the Gotha of ‘guitar heroes’ was undermined by the visionary impetuosity of the metropolitan Indian Jimi, but that’s another story.
In 1965, after the hit ‘For your love’, he was called by John Mayall to join the Bluesbreakers, an offer that Clapton hastily accepted, attracted by his interest in the blues, far from the pop temptations into which his other musical experiences were falling. With John Mayall there is only the space of one album, but it is indeed a great album. That same year, his eager search for his ideal bandmates led him to form Cream with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce.
Even in the decidedly rock approach of one of the first and most influential supergroups in the history of rock, blues standards find a relevant place: this is the case of “Rollin’ and umblin'” by Willie Hambone Newbern, “Born under a bad sign” by Albert King, “Spoonful” by Willie Dixon, “I’m so glad” by Skip James and “Crossroads” by Robert Johnson.It was a huge success, but perhaps it wasn’t handled well by the three. Overwhelmed by their inflated egos, they soon developed irreconcilable disagreements and broke up in 1968.
Once again on the market with his Fender on his shoulder, Clapton was looking for other fellow adventurers. Then came another supergroup, even more ephemeral, with Blind Faith alongside Steve Winwood, then John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and an American tour with Delaney & Bonnie. In fact, what will go down in history as his first solo album (“Eric Clapton”, published by Polydor in 1970), was still very much influenced by the experience with the Bramlett couple, since “Slowhand” used their group and wrote most of the tracks with Delaney Bramlett. The debut has an R&B sound sprinkled with gospel, undoubtedly far from what the musician had proposed up to that point.
If you thought Eric Clapton was satisfied at this point, you would be sadly mistaken. Not only did the number of collaborations and bands in which he was involved increase dramatically, but he also had to wage a tough battle against heroin, an addiction that was driving him to ruin (he had even pawned his precious guitars to satisfy drug dealers). On the brink of catastrophe, he had the good sense to pull his oars and stay put for a couple of years.
On 13 January 1973, Pete Townshend and Steve Winwood organised a concert to get him back on stage. As a benefit, the album “Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert” was released, which was lukewarmly received by critics at the time. However, his career resumed and, despite the fact that his drug problems had not yet been fully resolved, he enjoyed enormous success, followed by other memorable albums. Once the hangover of fame and skyrocketing sales was over, another failure awaited him, caused by stylistic choices that were not appreciated by the public.
He tried again in 1976 with Dylan and The Band: the combination worked and he became the star he was again. From here on, the road of “Manolenta” is paved with gold, even if it is crossed by the usual ups and downs. More ups than downs, in fact. Just to name a few, albums like “Backless” from 1978, “Another Ticket” from 1981, “Behind the Sun” from 1985, “August” from 1986 and “Journeyman” from 1989 are forgettable.Money and Cigarettes’ from 1983 is another matter, but just to hear Eric Clapton and Ry Cooder’s guitars together (with the addition of the lesser known but equally skilled Albert Lee).
The talent comes out live, as shown by the double “Just one night” of 1980, but not even the stage is a guarantee (just listen to “24 Nights” of 1991). However, the period was full of money, models, coca parties and misfortunes (the tragic death of his two-year-old son, from a relationship with Lory Del Santo, in New York).
The soundtracks also arrived: while 1989’s ‘Homeboy’ was as boring as the Mickey Rourke film of the same name, 1992’s ‘Rush’ included two tracks that showed his electroencephalogram was not flat: beautiful and unforgettable were ‘Tears in heaven’, an autobiographical ballad dedicated to his dead son, and Willie Dixon’s ‘Don’t know which way to go’ in an unsparing version.
In the meantime, what should have been a handover to Stevie Ray Vaughan didn’t happen (Clapton performed with the other guitar great on the very night the Texan lost his life in a helicopter) and Clapton found new stimuli with the 1992 album “Unplugged”, an acoustic live show for MTV and a sincere reinterpretation of his career (which in part returned Clapton to his first love, the blues).
Heartened, in 1994 Eric Clapton went into the studio with a trusty band and recorded a scorching sequence of sixteen blues classics by sacred monsters such as Howlin’ Wolf, Leroy Carr, Muddy Waters, Lowell Fulson and others, live (or almost). The result is the moving ‘From the cradle’, a virtual cake with candles for his 30-year career. Incredible as it may seem, this is also Clapton’s first entirely and openly blues record. The result is exceptional: even purists have to think again and take their hats off.
Today ‘Slowhand’ is a stylish, multi-millionaire superstar. He has certainly received a great deal from the blues, more than the vast majority of those who invented it. But, at least indirectly, it was he who led to the rediscovery of some great early performers who had fallen into oblivion. And practically all white guitarists who play the blues have, sooner or later, had to deal with his personal and very recognisable sound. Of course, his discography does not shine with blues gems and his life as a rock star does not always predispose to benevolent criticism. But Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton undoubtedly deserves his place among the greats.
1970 –Eric Clapton
1974 – 461 Ocean Boulevard
1975 – There’s One in Every Crowd
1976 – No Reason to Cry
1977 – Slowhand
1978 – Backless
1980 – Just One Night
1981 – Another Ticket
1983 – Money and Cigarettes
1985 – Behind the Sun
1986 – August
1989 – Journeyman
1992 – Unplugged
1994 – From the Cradle
1998 – Pilgrim
2000 – Riding with the King
2001 – Reptile
2004 – Me and Mr. Johnson
2005 – Back Home
2006 – The Road to Escondido
2010 – Clapton
2013 – Old Sock
2014 – The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale
2016 – I Still Do
2018 – Happy Xmas