Eric Patrick Clapton CBE (born 30 March 1945), nicknamed "Slowhand", is a Grammy Award winning English guitarist, singer and composer.
He is one of the most successful musicians of the 20th and 21th century, garnering an unprecedented three inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Often viewed as one of the greatest guitarists of all time among critics and fans alike, Eric Clapton was ranked 4th in Rolling Stone’s list of The Greatest Guitarists of All Time and #53 on their list of the The Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time..
Although Clapton's musical style has varied throughout his career, it has always remained rooted in the blues. Clapton is credited as an innovator in several phases of his career, which have included blues-rock (with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds) and psychedelic rock (with Cream). Clapton has also achieved great chart success in genres ranging from Delta blues (Me and Mr. Johnson) to pop ("Change the World") and reggae ("I Shot the Sheriff"). Clapton also achieved fame with Derek and the Dominos with the song "Layla".
Clapton's early days
Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England the son of unwed parents 16-year-old Patricia Molly Clapton and Edward Walter Fryer, a 24-year-old soldier from Montréal. Fryer shipped off to war prior to Clapton's birth and then returned to Canada.
Clapton grew up with his grandmother, Rose, and her second husband Jack, believing they were his parents and that his mother was his older sister. (Their surname was Clapp, which has given rise to the widespread but erroneous belief that Eric's real name is Clapp.) Years later his mother married another Canadian soldier, moved to Canada and left Eric with his grandparents. When Clapton was 9 years old he discovered this family secret when his mother and 6 year old half-brother returned to England for a visit. The experience became a defining moment in his life. He began to stop applying himself at school and became moody and distant from his family.
Clapton grew up quiet, shy, lonely and in his words a "nasty kid". During his secondary school years he attended the Hollyfield School in Surbiton. His first job was as a postman. At 13, Clapton received an acoustic Spanish Hoya guitar, as well as a marimba, for his birthday, but he found learning the instruments so difficult he nearly gave up. Influenced by the blues from an early age, he practiced for hours on end, struggling to learn chords and trying to copy the exact sounds of black blues artists such as Big Bill Broonzy that he had on his little Grundig Cub tape recorder. After leaving school Clapton completed a one-year foundation art course in 1962 at the Kingston College of Art but he did not go on to undertake an art degree. Around this time Clapton began busking around Kingston, Richmond and the West End of London. Clapton joined his first band at 17 and stayed with this band - the early British R&B outfit The Roosters - from January through to August 1963. Clapton did a seven-gig stint with Casey Jones and the Engineers in October 1963
Clapton joined The Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band in 1963 and stayed with them until March 1965. Synthesising influences from Chicago blues and leading blues guitarists such as Buddy Guy, Freddie King and B.B. King, Clapton forged a distinctive style and rapidly became one of the most talked-about guitarists in the British music scene. The band initially played Chess/Checker/Vee-Jay blues numbers and began to attract a large cult following when they took over the Rolling Stones' residency at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond. They toured England with American bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson II; a joint LP, recorded in December 1963, was issued belatedly under both their names in 1965. In March 1965, just as Clapton left the band, the Yardbirds had their first major hit, on which Clapton played guitar: "For Your Love."
Still obstinately dedicated to blues music, Clapton took strong exception to the Yardbirds' new pop-oriented direction, partly because "For Your Love" had been written by pop songwriter-for-hire Graham Gouldman, who had also written hits for teen pop outfit Herman's Hermits and harmony pop band The Hollies. Clapton recommended fellow guitarist Jimmy Page as his replacement, but Page was at that time unwilling to relinquish his lucrative career as a freelance studio musician, so Page in turn recommended Clapton's successor, Jeff Beck (although Page would also eventually join the band). While Beck and Page played together in the Yardbirds, the trio of Beck, Page, and Clapton were never in the group together. However, the trio did appear at the 1983 ARMS charity concerts, as well as on the rare blues album Guitar Boogie. Having quit the Yardbirds in March, Clapton joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in April 1965. His passionate playing in nightclubs — and on the immensely influential album, Blues Breakers — established Clapton's name worldwide as a blues guitarist. With his 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar and Marshall amplifier, Clapton's playing by then had inspired a well-publicised graffito that deified him with the famous slogan "Clapton is God". The phrase was spray-painted by an admirer on a wall in an Islington Underground station in the autumn of 1967. The graffito was captured in a now-famous photograph, in which a dog is urinating on the wall. Clapton is well reported to have been embarrassed by the slogan, saying in The South Bank Show profile of him made in 1987, "I never accepted that I was the greatest guitar player in the world. I always wanted to be the greatest guitar player in the world, but that's an ideal, and I accept it as an ideal." Contrary to a popular myth (perpetuated by, amongst others, the South Bank Show programme itself), "Clapton is God" slogans did not appear all over the place but only on that wall.
Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in mid-1966 (to be replaced by Peter Green) and then formed Cream, one of the earliest supergroup bands. Cream was also one of the earliest "power trios", with Jack Bruce on bass (also of Manfred Mann, the Bluesbreakers and the Graham Bond Organisation) and Ginger Baker on drums (another member of the GBO). Before the formation of Cream, Clapton was all but unknown in the United States; he left The Yardbirds before "For Your Love" hit the American Top Ten. During his time with Cream, Clapton began to develop as a singer and songwriter, as well as guitarist, though Bruce took most of the lead vocals and wrote the majority of the material with lyricist Pete Brown. Cream's first gig was a low key performance at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester on 29 July 1966 before their full debut at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival. Cream established an enduring legend on the high-volume blues jamming and extended solos of their live shows, while their studio work was more sophisticated than original rock.
In early 1967, Clapton's status as Britain's top guitarist was shaken by the arrival of Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix attended a performance of the newly formed Cream at the Central London Polytechnic on 1 October 1966, during which Hendrix sat in on a shattering double-timed version of "Killing Floor". Top UK stars including Clapton, Pete Townshend, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles avidly attended Hendrix's early club performances. Hendrix's arrival had an immediate and major effect on the next phase of Clapton's career, although Clapton continued to be recognised in UK music polls as the premier guitarist. Clapton and Hendrix remained friends up until Hendrix's death in 1970. The day before Hendrix died, Clapton had found and purchased a left handed Stratocaster, and planned on giving it to Hendrix, but was crushed to learn he would never get the chance.
Cream's repertoire varied from pop soul ("I Feel Free") to lengthy blues-based instrumental jams ("Spoonful") and featured Clapton's searing guitar lines, Bruce's soaring vocals and prominent, fluid bass playing, and Baker's powerful, polyrhythmic jazz-influenced drumming.
In a mere three years Cream had immense commercial success, selling 15 million records and playing to standing-room only crowds throughout the U.S. and Europe. They redefined the instrumentalist's role in rock and were one of the first bands to emphasise musical virtuosity, skill and flash. Their U.S. hit singles include "Sunshine of Your Love" (#5, 1968), "White Room" (#6, 1968) and "Crossroads" (#28, 1969) - a live version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroad Blues."
Although Cream was hailed as one of the greatest groups of its day, and the adulation of Clapton as guitar hero reached new heights, the band was destined to be short-lived. The legendary infighting between Bruce and Baker and growing tensions between all three members eventually led to Cream's demise. Another significant factor was a strongly critical Rolling Stone review of a concert of the group's second headlining U.S. tour, which affected Clapton profoundly. By this time he had also fallen deeply under the spell of the music of The Band after they had released the album Music from Big Pink and began to believe that rock music was heading in a new direction. He was so infatuated with them that he even asked to join them, but was turned down.
Cream's farewell album, Goodbye, featured live performances recorded live at The Forum, Los Angeles, 19 October 1968, and it was released shortly after Cream disbanded in 1968, and also featured the studio single "Badge", co-written by Clapton and George Harrison, whom he had met and become friends with after the Beatles had shared a bill with the Clapton-era Yardbirds at the London Palladium. The close friendship between Clapton and Harrison also resulted in Clapton's playing on Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from the Beatles' White Album—according to some, a tactic intended to make the other Beatles take Harrison's song more seriously, but whatever the truth, by all accounts the presence of an outsider, especially of Clapton's calibre, had the effect of bringing harmony to the irritable band. It had also been stated vigorously (mostly by other guitarists) that Clapton also shared solos with John Lennon (not counting intro beats, two measures Lennon, four measures Clapton, x 3) on The End from Abbey Road. In January 1969, during the making of what would become the Let It Be album, Harrison walked out after an argument and in his absence—fearing Harrison had gone for good and concerned that the album could not be completed—John Lennon proposed that Clapton replace Harrison. In the same year of release as the White Album, Harrison released his solo debut Wonderwall Music that became the first of many Harrison solo records to feature Clapton on guitar, who would go largely unaccredited due to contractual restraints. The pair would often play live together as each other's guests, right up until Harrison's death in 2001 and the following tribute concert in his name, for which Clapton was musical director.
Since their 1968 breakup, Cream briefly reunited in 1993 to perform at the ceremony inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A full-scale reunion of the legendary trio took place in May 2005, with Clapton, Bruce and Baker playing 4 sold-out concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall (the scene of their 1968 farewell shows) and 3 more at New York's Madison Square Garden that October. Recordings from the London shows were released on CD and DVD in September 2005.
Blind Faith & Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
A desultory spell in a second supergroup, the short-lived Blind Faith (1969), which was composed of Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood of Traffic and Ric Grech of Family, resulted in one LP and one arena-circuit tour. The supergroup debuted before 100,000 fans in London's Hyde Park on 7 June 1969, and began a sold-out American tour in July before its one and only album had been released. The LP Blind Faith was recorded in such haste that side two consisted of just two songs, one of them a 15 minute jam entitled "Do What You Like". Nevertheless, Blind Faith did include two classics: Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home" and Clapton's "Presence of the Lord". The album's jacket image of a topless prepubescent girl was deemed controversial in the U.S. and was replaced by a photograph of the band. Blind Faith dissolved after only a year together, and while Winwood returned to Traffic, by now Clapton was tired of both the spotlight and the hype that had surrounded Cream and Blind Faith, and wanted to make music that more closely resembled that of The Band.
Clapton decided to step into the background for a time, touring as a sideman with the American group Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. He moved to New York in late 1969 and worked with the band through early 1970. He became close friends with Delaney Bramlett, who encouraged him in his singing and writing, which would show determined growth in his next effort.
Using the Bramletts' backing group and an all-star cast of session players (including Leon Russell and Stephen Stills, on whose solo albums Clapton played), he released his first solo album in 1970, fittingly named Eric Clapton, which included the Bramlett composition, "Bottle Of Red Wine", and one of Clapton's best songs from this period, "Let It Rain". It also yielded an unexpected U.S. #18 hit, J.J. Cale's "After Midnight".
Clapton's "between-bands" period from 1969 to 1970 also saw him appear on a large number of other artists' records, ranging from George Harrison's All Things Must Pass (for contractual reasons, Clapton's contributions went unaccredited for decades) to The Plastic Ono Band's Live Peace in Toronto 1969 and Dr John's Sun Moon and Herbs.
Derek and the Dominos
Taking over Delaney & Bonnie's rhythm section — Bobby Whitlock (keyboards, vocals), Carl Radle (bass) and Jim Gordon (drums) — Clapton formed a new band which was similarly intended to counteract the 'star' cult that had grown up around him and display Clapton as an equal member of a fully-fledged group. The band was unnamed early on simply called "Eric Clapton and Friends" with its final name, Derek and the Dominos, an accident, by all accounts. Whitlock claims the previous performer, Tony Ashton of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke mispronounced their provisional name of "Eric and the Dynamos" as Derek and the Dominos. While in Clapton's biography a different story emerges claiming Ashton told Clapton to call the band "Del and the Dominos", Del being his nickname for Clapton. Del and Eric were combined and the final name became "Derek and the Dominos."
Clapton's close friendship with George Harrison had brought him into contact with Harrison's wife Pattie Boyd-Harrison, with whom he became deeply infatuated. When she spurned his advances, Clapton's unrequited affections prompted most of the material for the Dominos' album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, most notably the hit single "Layla", inspired by the classical Persian poet Nezami Ganjavi's "The Story of Layli and Majnun", a copy of which his friend Ian Dallas had given him. The book moved Clapton profoundly as it was the tale of a young man who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful, unavailable woman and who went crazy because he couldn't marry her. Clapton found a strong similarity between the situation of Layla and Majnun and the one between him and Boyd-Harrison.
Working at Criteria Studios in Miami with legendary Atlantic Records producer Tom Dowd, who had worked with Clapton back in the days of Cream, the band recorded a brilliant double-album, which is now widely regarded as Clapton's masterpiece. The two parts of "Layla" were recorded in separate sessions: the opening guitar section was recorded first, and for the second section, laid down several months later, drummer Jim Gordon composed and played the elegiac piano part.
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. A few days into the Layla sessions, Dowd — who was also producing the Allmans — invited Clapton to an Allman Brothers outdoor concert in Miami. The two guitarists — who previously knew each other only by reputation — met backstage after the show, and then both bands retired to the studio to jam. Actually they met first onstage as Duane stopped playing in mid-solo only to discover Clapton sitting right in front of him. Clapton and Allman played all night and became instant friends, and Allman was immediately invited to become the fifth member of The Dominos. (These studio jams were eventually released as part of the 3-CD 20th-anniversary edition of the Layla album.)
When Allman and Clapton met, The Dominos had barely started recording anything. Duane first added his slide guitar to "Tell the Truth" on August 28th as well as "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." In a window of only four days, the five-piece Dominos recorded "Key to the Highway," "Have You Ever Loved a Woman," and "Why Does Love Got to be So Sad." When September came around, Duane briefly left the sessions for gigs with his own band. In the two days he was absent, the four-piece Dominos recorded "I Looked Away," "Bell Bottom Blues," and "Keep on Growing." Duane returned on the 3rd to record "I am Yours," "Anyday," and "It's Too Late." On the 9th, they recorded Hendrix's "Little Wing" and the title track. The following day, the final track, "Thorn Tree in the Garden" was recorded.
The album was heavily blues-influenced and featured a winning combination of the twin guitars of Allman and Clapton, with Allman's incendiary slide-guitar a key ingredient of the sound. Many critics would later notice that Clapton played best when in a band composed of dual guitars; working with another guitarist kept him from getting "sloppy and lazy and this was undeniably the case with Duane Allman." It showcased some of Clapton's strongest material to date, as well as arguably some of his best guitar playing, with Whitlock also contributing several superb numbers, and his powerful, soul-influenced voice.
Eric Clapton performing at the Fillmore East for the recording of In Concert
Tragedy dogged the group throughout its brief career. During the sessions, Clapton was devastated by news of the death of Jimi Hendrix; eight days previously the band had cut a blistering version of "Little Wing" as a tribute to him which was added to the album. One year later on the eve of the group's first American tour, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident. Adding to Clapton's woes, the Layla album received only lukewarm reviews upon release; Clapton took this personally, accelerating his spiral into drug addiction and depression.
The shaken group undertook a US tour. Despite Clapton's later admission that the tour took place amidst a veritable blizzard of drugs and alcohol, it resulted in the surprisingly strong live double album In Concert. But Derek and the Dominos disintegrated messily in London just as they commenced recording for their second LP in 1971, without Duane Allman. Several tracks were recorded (five of which were released on the Eric Clapton box-set Crossroads), but the results were mediocre with a distinct lack of Bobby Whitlock's influence (he does not even appear on "Got To Get Better In A Little While," which had become a live favorite during their tour.) Although Radle would be Clapton's main bass player until the summer of 1979 (Radle died in May 1980 from the effects of alcohol and narcotics), the split between Clapton and Whitlock was apparently a bitter one, and it wasn't until 2003 before they worked together again (Clapton guested on Whitlock's appearance on the Later with Jools Holland show, playing and singing "Bell Bottom Blues", available on a "Later with Jools" DVD). Another tragic footnote to the Dominos story was the fate of drummer Jim Gordon, who was an undiagnosed schizophrenic who some years later during a psychotic episode murdered his mother and was confined to 14 years to life imprisonment. Gordon was moved to a mental institution after several years, where he remains today.
While Layla was regarded as a flop the year it came out, Duane Allman's death sparked interest in his career turning Layla into a smash album and the title track itself into a national hit.
Clapton's career successes were in stark contrast to his personal life, in a chaotic mess by late 1971. In addition to his (temporarily) unrequited and intense romantic longing for Pattie Boyd-Harrison, he withdrew from recording and touring to isolation in his Surrey, England residence. There he nursed his heroin addiction, resulting in a career hiatus interrupted only by the Concert for Bangladesh in August of 1971 (where he passed out on stage, was revived, and continued the show). In January of 1973, The Who's Pete Townshend organised a comeback concert for Clapton at London's Rainbow Theatre aptly titled the "Rainbow Concert" to help Clapton kick his addiction. Clapton would return the favour by playing 'The Preacher' in Ken Russell's film version of The Who's Tommy in 1975; his appearance in the film (performing "Eyesight To The Blind") is notable for the fact that he is clearly wearing a fake beard in some shots, the result of deciding to shave off his real beard after the initial takes in an attempt to force the director to remove his earlier scene from the movie and leave the set.
By the mid 70's, now partnered with Pattie (they would not actually marry until 1979) and free of heroin (although starting to drink heavily), Clapton put together a more low key touring band that included Radle, Miami guitarist George Terry, drummer Jamie Oldaker and vocalists Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy (later better known as Marcella Detroit of 1980s pop duo Shakespear's Sister). With this band Clapton recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974), an album with the emphasis on more compact songs and less guitar solos; the cover-version of "I Shot The Sheriff" was a major hit and was important in bringing reggae and the music of Bob Marley to a wider audience. The band toured the world and subsequently released the 1975 live LP, E.C. Was Here.
The 1975 album There's One in Every Crowd continued the trend of 461. Its original intended title The World's Greatest Guitar Player (There's One In Every Crowd) was altered, as it was felt the ironic intention would be missed. (Clapton's own original cover artwork, a (self-)portrait of a miserable-looking character with a pint glass, was also replaced by a photograph of Clapton's dog Jeep, apparently with its muzzle on a coffin.)
In 1976, Clapton appeared at The Band's farewell concert on 26 November. It was the second farewell concert Clapton had played on that date; eight years earlier, he had played Cream's farewell concert in London. Ironically, it was partially because of The Band's music that Clapton had decided to leave Cream in the first place.
Clapton continued to release albums sporadically and toured regularly, but much of his output from this period was deliberately low-key and failed to find the wide acceptance of his earlier work; highlights of the era include No Reason to Cry, whose collaborators included Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson, and Slowhand, which featured "Wonderful Tonight", another song inspired by Pattie Boyd-Harrison, and a second J.J. Cale cover, "Cocaine", which has since become a rock staple.
In the late 1980s Clapton added four black musicians to his band: bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, drummer Steve Ferrone and backing singer Katie Kissoon. Whilst Clapton had previously played and recorded with many black musicians (including Buddy Guy, BB King and Robert Cray), and had appeared alongside performers of varying ethnicities at collaborative events (such as The Concert for Bangla Desh), this was the first time Clapton had been in a band in which the official members were not all white. Defenders of Clapton's claim not to be racist also point out that he has dated Afro-Caribbean supermodel Naomi Campbell, and has had a home on the Caribbean island of Antigua for many years.
The late 1970s saw Clapton struggle to come to terms with the changes in popular music, and a relapse into alcoholism that eventually saw him hospitalised and then spending a period of convalescence in Antigua, where he would later support the creation of a drugs and alcohol rehabilitation centre, The Crossroads Centre.
In 1978 Clapton played the guitar on Arthur Louis' album "Knockin on heavens's door" on which Louis arranged and recorded the reggae version of Dylan's classic. Clapton then copied and released the same arrangement and recorded on the "B" side another of the tracks from Louis' album "someone like you" which was written by Arthur Louis too.
In 1981, Clapton was invited by producer Martin Lewis to appear at the Amnesty International benefit The Secret Policeman's Other Ball. Clapton accepted the invitation and teamed up with Jeff Beck to perform a series of duets - reportedly their first-ever billed stage collaboration. Three of the performances were released on the album of the show and one of the songs was featured in the film of the show. The performances heralded a return to form and prominence for Clapton in the new decade.
In 1984, he performed on Pink Floyd member Roger Waters's solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking and went on tour with Waters following the release of the album. Since then Waters and Clapton have had a close relationship, and in 2005 they performed together for the Tsunami Relief Fund and on May 20, 2006 performed with Waters at the Highclere Castle, in aid of the Countryside Alliance, playing two set pieces of "Wish You Were Here" and "Comfortably Numb".
As Clapton came back from his addictions, his album output continued in the 1980s, including two produced with Phil Collins, 1985's Behind the Sun, which produced the hits "Forever Man" and "She's Waiting", and 1986's August.
August, a polished release suffused with Collins's trademark drum/horn sound, became Clapton's biggest seller in the UK to date and matched his highest chart position, number 3. The album's first track, the hit "It's In The Way That You Use It", was also featured in the Tom Cruise-Paul Newman movie The Color of Money. The horn-peppered "Run" echoed Collins' "Sussudio" and rest of the producer's Genesis/solo output, while "Tearing Us Apart" (with Tina Turner) and the bitter "Miss You" echoed Clapton at his angry best.
The period kicked off Clapton's extensive two-year period of touring with Collins and their August collaborates, bassist Nathan East and keyboard player/songwriter Greg Phillinganes. Despite his own earlier battles with the bottle, Clapton also remade "After Midnight" as a single and a promotional track for the Michelob beer brand produced by Anheuser-Busch, which had also marketed earlier songs by Collins and Steve Winwood.
Clapton won more plaudits and a British Academy Television Award for his collaboration with Michael Kamen on the score for the critically-acclaimed 1985 BBC television thriller serial Edge of Darkness.
Clapton also worked on the music for the "Lethal Weapon" motion picture series alongside Michael Kamen and David Sanborn.
Many factors influenced Clapton's comeback, including his "deepening commitment to Christianity", to which he had converted prior to his heroin addiction. 
In 1989, Clapton's commercial and artistic resurgence finally came full circle with Journeyman, which featured songs in a wide range of styles from blues to jazz, soul and pop and collaborators including George Harrison, Phil Collins, Daryl Hall, Chaka Khan, Mick Jones, David Sanborn and Robert Cray.
While Unplugged featured Clapton playing acoustic guitar, his 1994 album From the Cradle contains new versions of old blues standards highlighted by fine electric guitar playing. This album became a cult in the blues scene, a comeback to his roots, showing that Clapton could still play great blues music along the more mainstream music featured in his other records.
Clapton finished the twentieth century with critically-acclaimed collaborations with Carlos Santana and B. B. King. Clapton's 1996 recording of the Wayne Kirkpatrick/ Gordon Kennedy/Tommy Sims tune "Change the World" (featured in the soundtrack of the movie Phenomenon) won a Grammy award for song of the year in 1997, the same year he recorded Retail Therapy, an album of electronic music with Simon Climie under the pseudonym TDF. The following year, Clapton released the album "Pilgrim", the first record featuring brand new material for almost a decade.
In 1996 Clapton had a relationship with singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow. The couple dated briefly but it is rumoured that Sheryl wrote "My Favorite Mistake" about her relationship with Clapton. They remain friends currently.
In 1999 Clapton, then 54, met 23-year-old graphic artist Melia McEnery in Los Angeles while working on an album with B.B. King. They met when she approached him at a Los Angeles party thrown by Giorgio Armani, asking for an autograph for her uncle. They married in 2002 at St Mary Magdalen church in Clapton's birthplace, Ripley, Surrey, and as of 2005 have three daughters, Julie Rose (2001), Ella May (2003), and Sophie (2005). He wrote the song "Three Little Girls," featured on his 2006 album "The Road to Escondido," about the contentment he has found in his home life with his wife and daughters.
Following the release of the 2001 record Reptile, Eric performed "Layla" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at the Party at the Palace in 2002 and in November he masterminded The Concert for George at the Royal Albert Hall, a tribute to George Harrison, who had died a year earlier of cancer. The concert featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, and Ravi Shankar, amongst others.
In 2004, Clapton released two records packed full of covers by legendary Bluesman, Robert Johnson. Me & Mr Johnson, contains many delights from the soulful "Love in Vain," to the pacey "Last Fair Deal Going Down," and "They're Red Hot." The second album, Sessions For Robert J, was released in December and comprising the outtakes from the Me & Mr Johnson. Before his Tour of Japan in 2003, Clapton had stated that his new album would have a definite "rocky" feel but the two Robert Johnson records undoubtedly contradicted this. He later revealed that "when we got stuck or if it wasn't moving fast enough we'd stop and do a Robert Johnson song. That would clear the air and we'd go back and carry on for the new album. As a result, we ended up with a complete Robert Johnson album first, which was released last year as Me And Mr. Johnson."
The same year, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Clapton #53 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".On this list, he is the second greatest living guitarist (behind B.B. King).
In May 2005, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker reunited as Cream for a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Concert recordings were released on CD and DVD. Later, Cream performed in New York at Madison Square Garden.
Back Home, Clapton's first album of new original material in nearly five years, was released on Reprise Records on 30 August. Featuring twelve songs, five of which were penned by Clapton with creative collaborator Simon Climie, "Back Home" also includes "Love Comes To Everyone" by George Harrison, the Spinners' "Love Don't Love Nobody," a rendition of Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright's "I'm Going Left," and compositions by Vince Gill, Doyle Bramhall II and others. It was through the writing and recording process, Clapton explained, that the theme of "Back Home" emerged. "One of the earliest statements I made about myself," he revealed, "was back in the late '80s, with 'Journeyman.' This album completes that cycle in terms of talking about my whole journey as an itinerant musician and where I find myself now, starting a new family. That's why I chose the title. It's about coming home and staying home. Even though," he added with a laugh, "I'll be out on the road again next year, playing this music."
In 2006 it was announced that Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II would join Clapton's band for his 2006-2007 world tour. Trucks is the third member of the Allman Brothers Band to support Clapton, the second being pianist/keyboardist Chuck Leavell who appeared on the MTV Unplugged album and the 24 Nights performances at the Royal Albert Hall theater of London (RAH) in 1990 and 1991, as well as Clapton's 1992 US tour.
Support act band leader, Robert Cray regularly joins Eric on stage for "Old Love" which he co-wrote with him for the 1989 album "Journeyman" and also, for the encore on "Crossroads". The setlist for the 2006-2007 World Tour has been diversely crafted with compositions that span his entire solo career from "After Midnight" of 1970 "Eric Clapton" LP to "Back Home" from the album of the same name. On 20 May 2006 he performed with a set band consisting of Queen drummer Roger Taylor and former Pink Floyd frontman, bassist Roger Waters, at the Highclere Castle, in aid of the Countryside Alliance. On 13 August 2006, Clapton made a guest appearance at the Bob Dylan concert in Columbus, Ohio. He guest appeared on three songs of Jimmie Vaughan's opening act.
A collaboration with guitar legend J.J. Cale, titled "The Road to Escondido", was released on 7 November 2006. The 14 track CD was produced and recorded by the duo in August 2005 in California. The resulting music defies being labeled into any one category, but instead finds influence across the spectrum of blues, rock, country and folk. A hybrid sound that is unique musically, while still bearing the signature styles of Cale and Clapton recognised by fans around the world. The songs are warm and rich, with deep flowing rhythms, yet use an economy of words to express much.
In a true collaboration, Cale and Clapton jointly produced and recorded the album, each playing and singing on the tracks. Cale wrote 11 of the songs, Clapton wrote "Three Little Girls," John Mayer and Clapton wrote "Hard To Thrill" and the duo cover the blues classic "Sporting Life Blues." J.J. Cale's touring band accompanies them on the album as well as guest musicians including, Taj Mahal, John Mayer, Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall II, Albert Lee, Nathan East, Willie Weeks and Steve Jordan. Particularly special is the involvement of Billy Preston, who donated his classic keyboard talents throughout the album. The album is dedicated to Preston and Clapton's late friend Brian Roylance.
The rights to Clapton's official memoirs, to be written by Christopher Simon Sykes and to be published in 2007, were reportedly sold at the 2005 Frankfurt Book Fair for USD $4 million. It was announced via the BBC website in October 2006 that Clapton would add JJ Cale's "Cocaine" to his live set, having previously refused to play it. He now sees it as an anti-drugs song and has changed the backing vocals response to "Dirty Cocaine!".
Clapton has performed songs by myriad artists, most notably Robert Johnson and J.J. Cale. Other artists Clapton has covered include Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. He cites Freddie King, B.B. King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin and primarily Robert Johnson as major influences on his guitar playing, stating in the liner notes of his Robert Johnson tribute album Me and Mr. Johnson "It is a remarkable thing to have been driven and influenced all of my life by the work of one man... I accept that it has always been the keystone of my musical foundation... I am talking of course about Robert Johnson."
"Robert Johnson to me is the most important blues musician who ever lived. He was true, absolutely, to his own vision, and as deep as I have gotten into the music over the last 30 years, I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson. His music remains the most powerful cry than I think you can find in the human voice, really. ... it seemed to echo something I had always felt." from Discovering Robert Johnson by Eric Clapton.
In 1974, Clapton persuaded Freddie King to sign for RSO, Clapton's own record label at the time, and produced the first of King's two albums for the label, Burglar. He has recorded more than six of J.J. Cale's originals and has put out an album with the artist. Other artists Clapton has made collaborations with include Frank Zappa, B.B King, Santana, Ringo Starr, Roger Waters, Bob Marley and The Plastic Ono Band.
Clapton also collaborated with singer/songwriter John Mayer on his 2006 album release, Continuum. Mayer cites Clapton in his liner notes "Eric Clapton knows I steal from him and is still cool with it." Clapton and Mayer wrote several songs together which have yet to be released. Clapton's influence inspired Mayer to write "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" which loosely holds characteristics of Clapton's style.
Clapton's choice of electric guitars has been as notable as the man himself, and alongside Hank Marvin, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, Clapton has exerted a crucial and widespread influence in popularising particular models of the electric guitar.
Early on in his career, Clapton used both Gibson and Fender guitars, but became exclusively a Gibson player for a period beginning in mid-1965, when he purchased a used Gibson Les Paul Sunburst Standard guitar from a local guitar store in London. It is not known of the exact year of the guitar. But interviews with Clapton indicate it as being a 1960 model. Clapton commented on the slim profile of the neck, which would indicate it as a 1960 model. He would later use the guitar on the 1966 album with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and was largely responsible for Gibson's reintroduction of the original Les Paul body style after it was replaced by the Gibson SG.
Early during his stint in Cream, his treasured Les Paul Standard was stolen, although Clapton continued to play Gibson guitars with Cream and Blind Faith including Les Paul models (including one bought from Andy Summers almost identical to the stolen guitar), a Gibson Firebird and a Gibson ES-335, but his most famous guitar in this period was a 1964 Gibson SG. The guitar was noted for its remarkable, psychedelic appearance. In early 1967, just before their first US promotional tour, Clapton's SG, Bruce's Fender VI and Baker's drum head were repainted in eye-popping psychedelic designs created by the visual art collective known as The Fool.
Clapton played a Les Paul on the Beatles' studio recording of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." He later lent his SG to singer Jackie Lomax, who subsequently sold it to musician Todd Rundgren for US$500 in 1972. Rundgren restored the guitar and nicknamed it "Sunny," after "Sunshine of Your Love." Rundgren played the guitar extensively on record and in concert in the mid-1970s, eventually retiring it in 1977. He retained it until 2000, when he sold it at an auction for US$150,000.
During Clapton's heroin addiction from 1969 to 1974, he began to sell off his collection of guitars to pay for his drug habit. Seeing Clapton selling his most treasured possessions was one of the reasons Pete Townshend was prompted to help him get over his addiction. Slowhand occasionally used a double-bound sunburst Fender Custom Telecaster with a Stratocaster neck during a Blind Faith concert at Hyde Park (1969-70).
Another moment involving Clapton's guitars and Pete Townshend resulted in Hard Rock Cafe's unique and gigantic collection of memorabilia. In 1971, Clapton, a regular at the original Hard Rock Cafe in Hyde Park, London, gave a signed guitar to the cafe to designate his favourite bar stool. Pete Townshend, in turn, donated one of his own guitars, with a note attached: "Mine's as good as his! Love, Pete." From there, the collection of memorabilia grew, resulting in Hard Rock Cafe's atmosphere.
Later (due to the influence of Jimi Hendrix and fellow Blind Faith bandmate Steve Winwood, as well as his love of Buddy Guy's sound), Slowhand began using Fender Stratocasters. First was "Brownie" used during the recording of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs which in 1971 became the backup to the most famous of all Clapton's guitars, "Blackie." In 1970, Eric bought 6 Fender Stratocasters from the Sho-bud guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee. He gave one to George Harrison, Steve Winwood and Pete Townshend. He used the best components of the remaining three to create "Blackie." On 24 June 2004, Clapton sold "Blackie" at Christie’s Auction House, New York for $959,500 to raise funds for his Crossroads Centre for drug and alcohol addictions. It held the world record for most expensive guitar until a white Fender Stratocaster, signed by Clapton and a number of other artists, was auctioned to help raise money for victims of 2004's tsunami disaster.
During the "Edge of Darkness" period in 1985, Clapton briefly played a red Roland G-505 synth guitar controller with two synthesizers (Roland GR 700 and PG 200 floor pedals). This Japanese Strat copy from 1982 was also used for the "Never Make You Cry" track from the "Behind the Sun" album (recorded that same year) and during The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking tour with Roger Waters in 1984. The guitar was sold in the 1999 Clapton Crossroads auction at Christie's for $29,000 and went for $36,000 at the Rock 'n' Roll / Hollywood Auction presented by the London-based Cooper Owen auction house in association with Barrett-Jackson of Scottsdale (AZ) on January 15, 2007.
In 1988 Fender honoured Clapton, along with fellow Strat player Yngwie Malmsteen, with the introduction of his signature Eric Clapton Stratocaster. These were the first two artist models in the Stratocaster range and since then the artist series has grown to include models inspired by both Clapton's contemporaries such as Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck and those who have influenced him such as Buddy Guy. The late Stevie Ray Vaughan also has an artist series model. Clapton has also been honoured with a signature-model acoustic guitar made by the famous American firm of C.F. Martin & Co..
In 1999, Clapton auctioned off some of his guitar collection to raise over $5 million for continuing support of Crossroads Centre in Antigua, which he founded in 1997. The Crossroads Centre is a treatment base for addictive disorders like drugs and alcohol. In 2004, Clapton organised and participated in the Crossroads Guitar Festival to benefit the Centre. A second guitar auction, including the "Cream" of Clapton's collection--as well as guitars donated by famous friends, was also held on 24 June 2004. The total revenue garnered by this auction at Christie's was US $7,438,624.
Other media appearances
Clapton frequently appears as a guest on the albums of other musicians. For example, he is credited on Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms album, as he lent Mark Knopfler one of his guitars for the album. He also played lead guitar on The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Roger Waters' debut solo album after leaving Pink Floyd. Another media appearance is on Toots and the Maytals album True Love where he played guitar on the track Pressure Drop.
In March 2007, Clapton appeared in an advertisement for RealNetwork's Rhapsody (online music service).
In 1985, Clapton appeared on the charity concert Live Aid with Phil Collins (drums) and Donald 'Duck' Dunn (bass).
In an article in the spoof newspaper The Onion, Clapton is mentioned in passing, in which "Weird Al" Yankovic plans to parody "Tears in Heaven" to honor his late parents.
Clapton was featured in the rock opera film, Tommy as the Preacher.
He also appeared in Blues Brother’s 2000 as one of the Louisiana Gator Boys. In addition to being in the band, he had a small speaking role.
On July 20, 2007, Clapton appeared alongside John Mayer on Good Morning America performing "Crossroads," promoting Clapton's famous Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007.