• Paul Wirt

Happy 75th Birthday Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton has always been the definition of a guitar player’s guitarist. His skills are undeniable but he never set out to be flashy or used gimmicks to achieve his signature tone. He worked hard at his craft and for the most part, stayed true to his blues roots. His time in The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, and Derek and The Dominos found him experimenting with his sound and swapping guitars and amps until he settled primarily on a Fender Stratocaster for his main axe and a variety of Fender and Marshall amps. Throughout his solo career Clapton paid homage to the blues guitar legends that came before him but never achieved mainstream success. He helped make names like Robert Johnson, who’s “Crossroads” became one of Cream and Clapton’s most well-known cover songs, a household name. Clapton even named his guitar-player based music festival the “Crossroads Festival” in honor of Johnson. Some of Clapton’s most beloved work came later in his career when he performed on MTV’s Unplugged series. An emotional Clapton tore through a rousing set of acoustic blues but it was one his newest composition, the autobiographical “Tears In Heaven” written about the death of his son Conor that stole the show with its raw emotion. Looking back on Clapton’s solo career it is clear that he stuck to his blues guns and that most of his mainstream success came because of that integrity rather than in spite of it. In the 1980’s when punk, new-wave, hip-hop, and pop dominated the airwaves, Clapton kept preaching the blues and collaborated with the likes of George Harrison, Robbie Robertson, Phil Collins, Tina Turner, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Lindsay Buckingham, and Ry Cooder among others. Clapton’s ability to not only survive, but maintain a successful career for the span of over fifty years is a testament to the caliber of player he is but also to the kind of person he is as well. Clapton is so loved and respected by others in the music community because he never tried to be something he wasn’t and he always remembered to be grateful to those who came before him. He has also helped new generations connect with a genre that is not commercially as visible as many other forms of music and helped launch countless new artist’s careers in the process.


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