Eric Clapton (March 30, 1945 - ) is a British guitarist, nicknamed slowhand or, in the 1960s, God. Having learned to play as a boy, and growing up listening to blues recording by the likes of Robert Johnson, Clapton first made his name as a member of the Yardbirds, a pop influnced rock and roll band whose biggest hit "For Your Love" came whilst Eric was a member. Feeling the need to return to his blues roots he joined the Bluesbreakers, with John Mayall. His emotional playing on their first album (which features Eric reading a copy of the Beano on the cover) made his name as a blues player, and inspired a short lived craze of graffiti deifying him ("Clapton is God", it read). Limited by Mayall's traditional blues format, and inspired by Jimi Hendrix's newly formed Experience, amongst others, he left in 1966 to form Cream, one of the earliest examples of the supergroup, with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Cream's repertoire varied from pop ("I Feel Free") to lengthy instrumental jams ("Toad"). Splitting in 1968, the posthumous Goodbye album featured the single Badge, co-written by Clapton and Beatle George Harrison. The friendship between the two, which had resulted in Clapton playing on While My Guitar Gently Weeps from The Beatles' White Album, was sorely tested when Harrison's wife, Patti Boyd-Harrison, left him for Clapton.
Following a second spell in a supergroup, the far less successful Blind Faith, Clapton first played as one of Delaney and Bonnie and Friends before releasing a disappointingly restrained solo album. The next record, however, was better received. Taking the sidemen from his solo record, and adding slide guitar virtuoso Duane Allman he recorded "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs" as Derek and the Dominos. The title track, a statement of unrequited love for Boyd-Harrison with an immediately recognisable guitar riff, remains one of the most widely played rock songs of the 1970s. The remainder of the album, which was heavily blues influenced, featured a winning combination of the two guitars of Allman and Clapton.
Despite his success, Clapton's personal life was a mess. In addition to the romantic entanglements, he had become addicted to heroin, which resulted in a career hiatus interrupted only by The Concert for Bangladesh and the "Rainbow Concert" in 1973, organised by The Who's Pete Townshend to help Clapton kick the drug. Relatively clean again, he released "461 Ocean Boulevard"(1974), an album with the emphasis on songs rather than musicianship. Its cover of "I Shot The Sheriff", whilst somewhat anaemic, was important in bringing the music Bob Marley to a wider audience. The 1975 album "Theres One In Every Crowd" continued this trend. (Its original to be title "The World's Greatest Guitar Player (Theres One In Every Crowd)" was altered as it was felt the ironic intention would be missed.)
The late 1970s saw Clapton struggle to come to terms with the changes in popular music, and a relapse into alcholism, that eventually saw him hospilatised and spend a period of convalescence in Antigua, where he would later support the creation of a drugs and alcohol rehabilitation centre. His albums continued in the 1980s, with only 1989's "Journeyman" achieving much critical acclaim, featuring a strong return to his blues roots.
The early 1990s saw tragedy enter Clapton's life on two occasions. On August 27, 1990 guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn, who was touring with Clapton, and two members of their road crew were killed in a helicopter crash between concerts. Then, on March 20 1991, Clapton's son four-year-old son Conor died following an accidental fall from an apartment window. A fraction of Clapton's grief was heard on the song "Tears In Heaven" (on the soundtrack to the movie Rush), which, like the MTV Unplugged album that followed it, won a Grammy award.
Like Unplugged, his 1994 album From The Cradle, featured a number of versions of old blues standards, and highlighted his economical acoustic guitar style. In 1997 he recorded Retail Therapy, an album of electronic music under the pseudonym TDF, and he finished the twentieth century with critically occlaimed collaborations with Carlos Santana and B. B. King
Links: Claptons "Crossroads" Rehab centre, Antigua: http://crossroadsantigua.org/