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The Life of Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton was born on March 30, 1945 and grew up in Ripley, Surrey, England. He is the son of Patricia Molly Clapton and Edward Walter (a Canadian), although he was raised by his grandparents. Clapton was raised in a musical household where his grandmother played piano and listened to the the big jazz bands of the era on the radio.
Eric Clapton found out at age nine that the women he believed to be his sister, was, in fact, his biological mother. Being deeply affected by this revelation he stopped applying himself in school, later enrolling in the art branch of his school. Finding a true connection to the message of American Blues music, Eric Clapton immersed himself in all Blues music he could get his hands on. Building a reputation as a formidable artist, he moved through different bands all while developing his own style.
Through his life Clapton has struggled with drug abuse and alcoholism. At various times in his life it has prevented him from making music, while at others, it has provided him with inspiration and a drive to create.
As a teenager, Clapton related to the Blues music of the America and saw it as a creative outlet. At that time, the Blues were solidified in certain areas of the USA. The Mississippi Delta, where the Blues originated, with musicians such as Robert Johnson and Sonny Boy Williamson. While the Blues scene in Chicago was based off the Delta sound, however, musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Buddy Guy took liberty to electrify the blues sound and make it their own.
The way that Clapton fused the blues style into mainstream rock ‘n’ roll was revolutionary. And as such, Eric Clapton joined his first commercially successful group, the Yardbirds, formed in 1963. The group was made up of Clapton on lead guitar, Keith Relf singing lead vocals, Chris Dreja playing rhythm guitar, Paul Samwell-Smith on bass guitar and Jim McCarty on drums. After a series of commercial successes, Clapton quit the band in 1965, only to be replaced by future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, Jeff Beck (and later Jimmy Page).
Following two brief stints with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton formed the band Cream – the first Rock Supergroup – with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Although the band was plagued by constant infighting, they were able to produce 3 stunning albums with a bluesy-psychedelic feel to them.
Following his time with Cream he struggled for a number of years with a challenging addiction to alcohol and heroin, Clapton released the album 461 Ocean Boulevard which reinvented his sound and introduced the world to the Clapton that would produce heartfelt tracks and acoustic music.
After this time, Clapton returned to his roots of American Blues music, recording with his heroes: BB King and J.J. Cale as well as recording a tribute album to Robert Johnson.
The Guitar's of Eric Clapton
As a member of the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton played a Fender Telecaster, a Fender Jazzmaster, a double-cutaway Gretsch 6120 and a 1964 Cherry-Red Gibson ES-335. In 1965 Clapton purchased a Gibson Les Paul which he played during his time with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. He continued to play a Gibson Les Paul throughout Cream’s existence. In 1967, Clapton acquired his Gibson SG, named “The Fool”, paired with his Marshall JTM45 amp, he created many of the songs and guitar licks that characterized the Cream catalogue. In 1968, Clapton began using his 1964 Cherry-Red Gibson ES-335 which he used throughout the rest of his career.
In 1969, Clapton transitioned back to the Fender Stratocaster, which was used by many of his idols. Among Clapton’s most famous Stratocaster’s were the famous “Blackie” and its backup “Brownie”. In 1970, Clapton bought six guitars from a guitar shop and subsequently gave one each to his friends, George Harrison, Steve Winwood and to Pete Townsend. Blackie was assembled from the “best components of the remaining three guitars.
Clapton founded the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, in 1998, a substance-abuse rehabilitation centre for drug and alcohol addiction. Clapton has repeatedly auctioned off his guitars to support the facility, including Blackie, and his guitar from the Cream reunion tour in 2005, among other items.
How Eric Clapton has Impacted my Life
I believe that Eric Clapton is the second-best guitarist that has every lived, behind only, the great, Jimi Hendrix. The nickname, Slowhand, fits perfectly with what I find is Eric Clapton’s most redeeming quality, his mastery of timing. Clapton found a way of adapting the blues style and finesse of BB King and Robert Johnson to the rock & roll power of Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore. The way that he used rudimentary effects (distortion with his amp) changed the way that young guitarists approached the guitar. The sounds he was able to create in the late 1960s would work, along with other guitarists, to push the boundaries of guitar technique as well as guitar technologies.
Eric Clapton has maintained, throughout his life, the same musical curiosity he exhibited as a teenager with the blues. Originally, blues bands gave Clapton the refuge he needed, and when his curiosity took him elsewhere to start the band, Cream, with two jazz musicians where they fused Jazz and blues styles into the greatest power trio that every lived. Later popularising reggae, with “I Shot the Sherriff” to then return to acoustic playing shows the versatility of the great musician. Eric Clapton is one of my favourite musicians of all time and a personal hero.