Eric Clapton, CBE (born Eric Patrick Clapton March 30, 1945) is an English blues-rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer. Clapton is the only person who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, as a solo performer, as well as a member of rock bands The Yardbirds and Cream. Although Clapton has varied his musical style throughout his career, it has always remained grounded in the blues.
In October 1963, Clapton joined The Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band, and stayed with them until March 1965. Clapton forged a distinctive style and rapidly became one of the most talked-about guitarists in the British music scene. In March 1965, just as Clapton left the band, the Yardbirds had their first major hit, “For Your Love,” on which Clapton played guitar.
Clapton joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, in April 1965, only to quit a few months later. 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.
Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in July 1966 and formed Cream, one of the earliest supergroups, with Jack Bruce on bass who had played with Manfred Mann, the Bluesbreakers and the Graham Bond Organisation and Ginger Baker on drums who was another member of the Graham Bond Organisation. During his time with Cream, Clapton began to develop as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. 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 emphasize musical virtuosity and lengthy jazz-style improvisation sessions. Their U.S. hit singles included “Sunshine of Your Love” reaching #5 in 1968 “White Room” reaching #6 in 1968 and “Crossroads” reaching #28 in 1969.
Cream disbanded in 1968 and by this time Clapton had developed a friendship with The Beatles’ George Harrison. Clapton played lead guitar on the album version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” which appeared on the 1968 “The Beatles (White Album).”
Clapton's next group Blind Faith, which he joined in 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 LP “Blind Faith” consisted of just six songs, one of them a 15-minute jam entitled “Do What You Like.” Blind Faith dissolved after less than seven months.
Using Delaney Bramletts' backing group and an all-star cast of session players, including Leon Russell and Stephen Stills, Clapton released his first solo album “Eric Clapton” in 1970. Bramlett co-wrote six of the songs with Clapton, and Bonnie Bramlett co-wrote “Let It Rain.” The album yielded the unexpected U.S. #18 hit, a cover of J. J. Cale's “After Midnight.”
Clapton assembled a new band, known as Derek and the Dominos, composed of Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett’s former rhythm section, with Carl Radle as the bassist and Jim Gordon on drums, Bobby Whitlock as keyboardist and vocalist, and Clapton playing guitar. Clapton's close friendship with 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' 1970 album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.” This album contained the monster-hit single, love song “Layla.” 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. Shortly after the release and a tour the band dissolved.
During this time he withdrew from recording and touring to isolation in his Surrey, England residence. There he nursed his heroin addiction, resulting in a career hiatus. In 1974 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. With this band Clapton recorded 1974’s “461 Ocean Boulevard,” 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 album also went to #1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart.
The 1975 album “There's One in Every Crowd” continued this trend. It featured a take on “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” which was a Top 40 hit in the U.K. The band toured the world and subsequently released the 1975 live LP, “E.C. Was Here.” “No Reason to Cry,” a collaboration album with Bob Dylan and The Band was released in 1976 and featured the Top 40 hit, “Hello Old Friend.”
1977’s “Slowhand,” contained three of his most popular singles, the bluesy J.J. Cale cover “Cocaine,” the ballad “Wonderful Tonight” and the country-flavored #3 U.S. hit “Lay Down Sally,” as well as other songs that became Clapton classics on their own like “The Core” and “Next Time You See Her.” The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200.
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 1978 he released the album, “Backless,” which reached #8 on the Billboard 200 and produced the single, “Promises.” His 1981 album, “Another Ticket” followed and peaked at #7 on the Billboard 200. It featured the singles “I Can’t Stand It” and “Rita Mae.”
“Money and Cigarettes” was released in 1983 and produced the hit single, “I’ve Got a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart.” Clapton's first collaborative project with Phil Collins, 1985’s “Behind the Sun” produced the hits “Forever Man” and “She's Waiting.” 1986's “August,” also featured Collins as producer and became Clapton's biggest-selling LP to date. The single, “It's in the Way That You Use It” was featured in the film “The Color of Money,” and subsequently reached #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
In 1989, Clapton released “Journeyman,” an album which covered a wide range of styles including blues, jazz, soul and pop. Collaborators included Harrison, Collins, Daryl Hall, Chaka Khan, Mick Jones, David Sanborn and Robert Cray.
In 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. Clapton's grief was expressed in the song “Tears in Heaven,” which was co-written by Will Jennings. The song appeared on his “Unplugged” album from the MTV series of the same name, recorded in 1992. The album reached #1 on the Billboard 200, and has since been certified diamond by the RIAA for selling over 10 million copies in the U.S. At the 35th Grammy Awards, Clapton received a total of six Grammy Awards for the single “Tears in Heaven,” and his “Unplugged” album, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Rock Male Vocal Performance and Best Rock Song. “Tears in Heaven” earned three of the six awards.
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 tune “Change the World” won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1997.
The following year, Clapton released the album “Pilgrim,” his first record featuring brand new material for almost a decade. The album reached #4 on the Billboard 200 and featured the hit singles, “My Father’s Eyes” and “She’s Gone.”
He paired with B.B. King to release the 2000 album, “Riding with the King.” It was their first collaborative album and won the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. The album reached #1 on Billboard's Top Blues Albums chart.
Featuring keyboard work by Billy Preston and background vocals by the Impressions, Clapton released “Reptile” in 2001 which reached #5 on the Billboard 200. In 2004, Clapton released two albums packed full of covers by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, “Me and Mr. Johnson” and “Sessions for Robert J.”
“Back Home” was released in 2005 and was his first album to feature new material singe 2001’s “Reptile.” Alan Douglas and Mick Guzauski won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for the album.
Clapton and J.J. Cale teamed up for the 2006 album, “The Road to Escondido.” Contained on this album are the final recordings of Billy Preston, to whom the album is dedicated. A number of high profile musicians appeared on the album, including Preston, Derek Trucks, Taj Mahal, Pino Palladino, John Mayer, Steve Jordan and Doyle Bramhall II. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2008.
In 2010 he released “Clapton” made up of a mix of new material and cover songs. It debuted at #7 on the U.K. Albums chart, his highest charting album on the chart since “Reptile” from 2001. In the U.S. it entered the Billboard 200 at #6.