Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton was one of the finest guitarists of the sixties generation. He was grounded in the blues, versatile, able to push the boundaries of the art and a great instrumentalist. He was hailed as a true bluesman, by those that played the blues. Allegedly because he knew pain.
He was the first guitar hero, a label that he hated. He played with the Yardbirds and quit because of the direction of the group. He played with John Mayall, the supergroup trio Cream, Blind Faith and the on to solo and collaboration projects.
His axe of choice was the Fender Stratocaster and basically played lead as well as anyone, apart from Jimi Hendrix, but then who did. He could play most things well and led the way in improving guitar playing. But he was less of an innovator or songwriter, and maybe it was fortunate for him that he never ended up in some massive seventies stadium group like the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin because I don’t think it would have suited him, and once in that bubble it would be difficult to get out.
His first band was the Yardbirds and he was followed by two great guitarists in Jeff Beck and Jimmy page. Jeff was possibly better technically, but concentrated on purer jazz and blues music. Jimmy was possibly a lesser a player, but created and wrote for one of the greatest groups of all time, Led Zeppelin.
But Eric just kept playing guitar and though his music was not as relevant to the social revolution as others, he was clearly right at the cutting edge. And he survived. There are surprisingly few songs that he wrote himself. His songs were driven by his playing. Layla and other Lovesongs, released under the group name of Derek and the Dominos was one of the greatest albums of all time. Eric’s blues roots were given full expression. Anytime someone needed a lead guitar, you asked for Eric. He was famous live, especially at the Albert Hall, that was like his front room at times.
Some of his most famous songs were inspired from the tragedies that befell his life. It is a testament to the man, who though not a singer songwriter, was prepared to share this pain with us.
In an interview a few years ago, he stated that he did not need to practice much anymore, and would get up on stage and just improvise depending on the situation. He did not come from the poverty and divided society of the deep south of the USA like the bluesmen. But he demonstrated the lie of fame and fortune by clearly being accepted as one of them.
He lived the blues, he plays the blues, he will always be the blues.
Conway-Laird (2017)

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