One of the most well-known guitarists and rock performers in the world is Eric Clapton.
In addition to being a part of the legendary bands The Yardbirds, Cream, and Derek and the Dominos, he also had a hugely successful solo career, selling more than 130 million albums globally.
He played with Cream, Blind Faith, Delaney, and Bonnie and Friends, and the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” before the 1960s ended. He also contributed a scorching solo to George Harrison’s song. He began the 1970s by founding Derek and the Dominos before officially establishing a solo career that has been his primary outlet for the past 40 years.
Here are 5 of his best songs.
Although Eric Clapton has referred to his 1977 JJ Cale cover of “Cocaine” as an “anti-drug” song, he was undoubtedly using drugs at the time it initially entered the charts (or over the next decade). In 1977, the song peaked at number 30 and helped Cale pay some debts, but in following years, Clapton removed it from his set list out of concern that its meaning would be misinterpreted. As it was read back, he added the phrase “dirty cocaine” to further emphasize his argument.
Eric has things to say about the song. He said, “It’s no good to write a deliberate anti-drug song and hope that it will catch. Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that. It would disturb them to have someone else shoving something down their throat.”
Over his entire five-decade career, blues icon Robert Johnson has been idolized by Eric Clapton, who even recorded an entire album of his songs in 2004. A
few people were aware of his tunes until Cream released their rendition of “Cross Road Blues” as a single in 1968, Clapton is also responsible for popularizing his music.
This song, in the opinion of many Clapton fans, showcases Clapton’s performance at its absolute best. Since then, classic rock radio has consistently played it. For the next four decades, he also performed it at the majority of his solo concerts, but it has never sounded as sublime as it did with Cream.
This song was composed by Eric Clapton for his then-girlfriend Pattie Boyd and included on his 1977 album Slowhand (who divorced his friend George Harrison in the same year).
Pattie, later on, said, “For years it tore at me. To have inspired Eric, and George before him, to write such music was so flattering. ‘Wonderful Tonight’ was the most poignant reminder of all that was good in our relationship, and when things went wrong it was torture to hear it.”
It was quite a ride for her and Eric.
Tears in Heaven
The soundtrack was written by Eric Clapton, who also added a brand-new song he wrote on the untimely passing of his son Conor, who was four years old. For months on end, the VH1 video aired continuously. Shortly after, Clapton re-recorded the song for Unplugged, giving it a further boost on the charts. It became one of Clapton’s biggest hits, but by 2004, he could no longer bear to perform the song, so he removed it from his setlist.
In 2004, he said, “I really have to connect with the feelings that were there when I wrote them. They’re kind of gone and I really don’t want them to come back, particularly. My life is different now. They probably just need a rest and maybe I’ll introduce them for a much more detached point of view.”
After Cream split up and his follow-up project Blind Faith failed after just one record, Clapton was in a fairly bad spot. He was using drugs and drinking excessively, and his close buddy George Harrison was married to the lady he secretly adored. Thus, Clapton entered the recording studio and poured his heart and soul into the greatest songs of his career. The album’s standout track, “Layla,” is an epic love ballad that ends with one of the most romantic musical compositions ever made. The sobbing slide is provided by Duane Allman, and Clapton, whose voice and guitar playing have never been greater, completes the song.
In his memoir he wrote, “I was driven by my obsession, Layla’ was the key song, a conscious attempt to speak to Pattie about the fact that she was holding me off and wouldn’t come move in with me.”