Eric Clapton In the Yardbirds, Cream, Derek and the Dominos, and his own bands, guitarist Eric Clapton has continually redefined his own version of the blues. Raised by his grandparents after his mother abandoned him at an early age, Clapton grew up a self-confessed "nasty kid." He studied stained-glass design at Kingston Art School and started playing guitar at 15 and joining groups two years later. He stayed with his first band, the early British R&B outfit the Roasters (which included Tom McGuinness, later of Manfred Mann and McGuinness Flint), from January to August 1963 and frequently jammed in London clubs with, among others, future members of the Rolling Stones. The guitarist put in a seven-gig stint with a Top Forty band, Casey Jones and the Engineers, in September 1963. He joined the Yardbirds in late 1963 and stayed with them until March 1965, when they began to leave behind power blues for psychedelic pop.
Upon leaving the Yardbirds, Clapton did construction work until John Mayall asked him to join his Blues-breakers in spring 1965. With Mayall, he contributed to several LPs while perfecting the blues runs that drew a cult of worshipers (the slogan "Clapton Is God" became a popular graffito in London). Also with Mayall he participated in a studio band called Powerhouse (which included Jack Bruce and Steve Winwood); they contributed three cuts to a 1966 Elektra anthology, What's Shakin'. Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in July 1966 and cut a few tracks with Jimmy Page, then with bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker he formed Cream.
Clapton perfected his virtuoso style, and Cream's concerts featured lengthy solo excursions, which Clapton often performed with his back to the crowd. During his tenure with Cream, Clapton contributed lead fills to the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and appeared on Frank Zappa's We're Only in It for the Money.
When Cream broke up in November 1968, Clapton formed the short-lived supergroup Blind Faith with Baker, Winwood, and Rick Grech . During their only U.S. tour, Clapton embraced Christianity, which he has given up and reaffirmed periodically ever since. As a corrective to Blind Faith's fan worship, Clapton began jamming with tour openers Delaney and Bonnie, then joined their band as an unbilled (but hardly unnoticed) sideman. Clapton's 1969 activities also included a brief fling with John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band (Live Peace in Toronto).
He moved to New York in late 1969 and continued to work with Delaney and Bonnie through early 1970. With several members of the Bramletts' band, and friends like Leon Russell and Stephen Stills, whose solo albums Clapton played on, he recorded his first solo album, Eric Clapton, which yielded a U.S. #18 hit, the J. J. Cale sang "After Midnight."
The album marked Clapton's emergence as a strong lead vocalist, a role he continued to fill after forming Derek and the Dominos with bassist Carl Radle, drummer Jim Gordon, and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, all former Delaney and Bonnie sidemen. The Dominos' only studio album, the two-record Layla (#16, 1970), was a guitar tour de force sparked by the contributions of guest artist Duane Allman. The title track, an instant FM standard (and a top Ten hit two years later), was a tale of unrequited love inspired by Pattie Boyd Harrison (wife of ex-Beatle George), whom Clapton eventually married in 1979; they divorced in 1989. Clapton toured on and off with the Dominos through late 1971, but the group collapsed due to personal conflicts, most, Clapton later claimed, drug- or alcohol-induced. Over the following two decades, Derek and the Dominos would prove one of the most star-crossed groups in rock: Allman died in a motorcycle crash in October 1971; Radle died of alcohol poisoning in 1981; Gordon was convicted of murdering his mother and imprisoned in 1984.
Clapton sat in on albums by Dr. John and Harrison, who enticed Clapton to play at the benefit concert for Bangladesh in August 1971. Depressed and burdened by a heroin habit, Clapton retreated to the isolation of his Surrey, England, home for most of 1971 and 1972. With the aid of Pete Townshend, he began his comeback with a concert at London's Rainbow Theatre in January 1973. Supported by Townshend, Winwood, Ron Wand, Jim Capaldi, and others, Clapton released tapes from the ragged concert in a September 1973 LP. By the time 461 Ocean Boulevard (#1, 1974) was released, he had kicked heroin for good.
In the Seventies Clapton became a dependable hit-maker with the easygoing, more commercial style he introduced on 461 -- a relaxed shuffle that, like J. J. Cale's, hinted at gospel, honky-tonk, and reggae; retaining a blues feeling but not necessarily the blues structure. Playing fewer and shorter guitar solos, he emphasized his vocals -- often paired with harmonies by Yvonne Elliman or Marcy Levy -- over his guitar virtuosity. He had hits with his cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" (#1, 1974) and originals "Lay Down Sally" (#3, 1978) and "Promises" (#9, 1979). His albums regularly sold in gold quantities; Slowhand and Backless were certified platinum.
He had a Top Ten hit in 1981 with "I Can't Stand It," from Another Ticket (#7), and later that year formed his own label, Duck Records. During the early Eighties he made frequent appearances at major benefit concerts. In that decade Clapton's singles veered closer to balladry than blues, producing a string of hits, including "I've Got a Rock ‘n' Roll Heart" (#18, 1983) and "Forever Man" (#26, 1985). In 1985 he separated from his wife Pattie and went into rehabilitation to overcame the alcoholism that had replaced his heroin addiction over a decade before.
Eric met a woman during the "Behind The Sun" session who gave him his first child in January, Ruth. The next year Italian actress Lori Del Santo gave birth to Conor in August.
Clapton continued to tour and record. 24 Nights captured Clapton's 1990-91 concert series at London's Royal Albert Hall, which since 1987 has become an annual event. Guests on the album include Jimmie Vaughan, Phil Collins, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, and Robert Cray. He had spent the better part of the past two years on the road, and in August 1990 his agent and two members of his road crew died in the same helicopter crash that claimed Stevie Ray Vaughan. On March 20, 1991, his four-and-a-half-year-old son, Conor, died after falling aver 50 stories through a window in his mother's Manhattan apartment. A maintenance worker had left it open by mistake. Clapton was staying in a hotel just blocks from the apartment when the tragedy occurred. The following year Clapton made public service announcements warning parents to protect their children by installing gates over windows and staircases.
After a period of seclusion, Clapton began work again, writing music for Rush, a film about drug addiction. In March 1992, almost a year after Conor's death, Clapton taped a segment for MTV's Unplugged series, the soundtrack of which peaked at #2 in 1992 and included a reworking of "Layla" (#12, 1993) and "Tears in Heaven" (#2, 1993), the latter written for his son. That year he was nominated for nine Grammy awards and won six, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, for "Tears in Heaven." In early 1993 Clapton and his former cohorts in Cream, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, reunited to perform three songs at the group's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. In 1994 Clapton released an album of remakes of acoustic and electric blues, From the Cradle, which topped the charts and won a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. The double-platinum album became the best-selling traditional blues recording in history. In early 1995 Clapton was honored with an M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire).
In 1996, his song "Change The World" composed for the Phenomenon soundtrack becomes quickely a world hit. Then he records "Pilgrim" in 1998, with a world tour, finances the Crossroads Center, a center for recovery from alcoholism and other drug dependencies with the sale of hundred of his guitars and a concert with celebrities like Bob Dylan.
Meanwhile, Eric met Melia who he married in January 2002. Their daughter Julie Rose was born in June 2001
Lately, Eric recorded "Reptile" and did what he announced to be his last tour...
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