Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE, (born 30 March 1945) is an English guitarist and singer-songwriter. Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton ranked fourth in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and fourth in Gibson’s Top 50 Guitarists of All Time.
In the mid 1960s, Clapton departed from the Yardbirds to play blues with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. In his one-year stay with Mayall, Clapton gained the nickname “Slowhand”, and graffiti in London declared “Clapton is God.” Immediately after leaving Mayall, Clapton formed Cream, a power trio with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce in which Clapton played sustained blues improvisations and “arty, blues-based psychedelic pop.” For most of the 1970s, Clapton’s output bore the influence of the mellow style of J.J. Cale and the reggae of Bob Marley. His version of Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” helped reggae reach a mass market. Two of his most popular recordings were “Layla“, recorded by Derek and the Dominos, and Robert Johnson‘s “Crossroads“, recorded by Cream. A recipient of seventeen Grammy Awards, in 2004 Clapton was awarded a CBE for services to music. In 1998, Clapton, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, founded the Crossroads Centre on Antigua, a medical facility for recovering substance abusers.
Eric Patrick Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England, the son of 16-year-old Patricia Molly Clapton (b. 7 January 1929 d. March 1999) and Edward Walter Fryer (21 March 1920 – 15 May 1985), a 24-year-old soldier from Montreal, Quebec. Fryer shipped off to war prior to Clapton’s birth and then returned to Canada. Clapton grew up with his grandmother, Rose, and her second husband, Jack Clapp, who was stepfather to Patricia Clapton and her brother Adrian, believing they were his parents and that his mother was actually his older sister. The similarity in surnames gave rise to the erroneous belief that Clapton’s real surname is Clapp (Reginald Cecil Clapton was the name of Rose’s first husband, Eric Clapton’s maternal grandfather). Years later, his mother married another Canadian soldier and moved to Germany, leaving young Eric with his grandparents in Surrey.
Clapton received an acoustic Hoyer guitar, made in Germany, for his 13th birthday, but the inexpensive steel-stringed instrument was difficult to play and he briefly lost interest.Two years later Clapton picked it up again and started playing consistently. Clapton was influenced by the blues from an early age, and practised long hours to learn the chords of blues music by playing along to the records. He preserved his practice sessions using his portable Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder, listening to them over and over until he felt he’d got it right.
After leaving Hollyfield school Surbiton in 1961, Clapton studied at the Kingston College of Art but was dismissed at the end of the academic year because his focus remained on music rather than art. His guitar playing was so advanced that by the age of 16 people were starting to notice him. Around this time Clapton began busking around Kingston,Richmond, and the West End of London. In 1962, Clapton started performing as a duo with fellow blues enthusiast David Brock in the pubs around Surrey. When he was 17 years old Clapton joined his first band, an early British R&B group, “The Roosters”, whose other guitarist was Tom McGuinness. He stayed with this band from January through August 1963. In October of that year, Clapton did a seven-gig stint with Casey Jones & The Engineers.
The Yardbirds and the Bluesbreakers
In October 1963 Clapton joined The Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band, and stayed with them until March 1965. Synthesising influences from Chicago blues and leading blues guitarists such as Buddy Guy, Freddie King, and B. B. King, Clapton forged a distinctive style and rapidly became one of the most talked-about guitarists in the British music scene. The band initially played Chess/Checker/Vee-Jay blues numbers and began to attract a large cult following when they took over the Rolling Stones‘ residency at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond. They toured England with American bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson II; a joint LP album, recorded in December 1963, was issued in 1965.
It was during this time period that Clapton’s Yardbirds rhythm guitarist, Chris Dreja, recalled that whenever Clapton broke a guitar string during a concert, he would stay on stage and replace it. The English audiences would wait out the delay by doing what is called a “slow handclap“. Clapton told his official biographer, Ray Coleman, that, “My nickname of ‘Slowhand’ came from Giorgio Gomelsky. He coined it as a good pun. He kept saying I was a fast player, so he put together the slow handclap phrase into Slowhand as a play on words”.
In March 1965 the Yardbirds had their first major hit, “For Your Love“, on which Clapton played guitar. The Yardbirds elected to move toward a pop-oriented sound, in part because of the success of “For Your Love”, written by pop songwriter-for-hire Graham Gouldman, who had also written hit songs for teen pop outfit Herman’s Hermits and The Hollies. Still musically devoted to the blues, Clapton was opposed to the move, and left the band. He recommended fellow guitarist Jimmy Page as his replacement, but Page was at that time unwilling to relinquish his lucrative career as a freelance studio musician, so Page in turn recommended Clapton’s successor, Jeff Beck. While Beck and Page played together in the Yardbirds, the trio of Beck, Page, and Clapton were never in the group together. However, the trio did appear on the 12-date benefit tour for Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis, as well as on the album Guitar Boogie.
Clapton joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in April 1965, only to quit a few months later. In the summer of 1965 he left for Greece with a band called The Glands, which included his old friend Ben Palmer on piano. In November 1965 he rejoined John Mayall. It was during his second Bluesbreakers stint that his passionate playing established Clapton’s name as the best blues guitarist on the club circuit. Although Clapton gained world fame for his playing on the influential album, Blues Breakers – John Mayall – With Eric Clapton, this album was not released until Clapton had left the Bluesbreakers for the last time. Having swapped his Fender Telecaster and Vox AC30 amplifier for a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar and Marshall amplifier, Clapton’s sound and playing inspired a well-publicised graffito that deified him with the famous slogan “Clapton is God”. The phrase was spray-painted by an admirer on a wall in an Islington Underground station in the autumn of 1967. The graffiti was captured in a now-famous photograph, in which a dog is urinating on the wall. Clapton is reported to have been embarrassed by the slogan, saying in his The South Bank Show profile in 1987, “I never accepted that I was the greatest guitar player in the world. I always wanted to be the greatest guitar player in the world, but that’s an ideal, and I accept it as an ideal”. The phrase began to appear in other areas of Islington throughout the mid 1960s.
Layla -Original Version
Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in July 1966 (to be replaced by Peter Green) and formed Cream, one of the earliest supergroups, with Jack Bruce on bass (also of Manfred Mann, the Bluesbreakers, and the Graham Bond Organisation) and Ginger Baker on drums (another member of the Graham Bond Organisation). Before the formation of Cream, Clapton was not well known in the United States; he left the Yardbirds before “For Your Love” hit the American Top Ten, and had yet to perform there. During his time with Cream, Clapton began to develop as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, though Bruce took most of the lead vocals and wrote the majority of the material with lyricist Pete Brown.Cream’s first gig was an unofficial performance at the Twisted Wheel Club in Manchester on 29 July 1966 before their full debut two nights later at the National Jazz and Blues Festival in Windsor. Cream established its enduring legend with the high-volume blues jamming and extended solos of their live shows.
In early 1967 Clapton’s status as Britain’s top guitarist was rivalled by the emergence of Jimi Hendrix, an acid rock-infused guitarist who used wailing feedback and effects pedalsto create new sounds for the instrument. Hendrix attended a performance of the newly-formed Cream at the Central London Polytechnic on 1 October 1966, during which Hendrix sat in on a double-timed version of “Killing Floor“. Top UK stars including Clapton, Pete Townshend, and members of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles avidly attended Hendrix’s early club performances. Hendrix’s arrival had an immediate and major effect on the next phase of Clapton’s career, although Clapton continued to be recognised in UK music polls as the premier guitarist.
Clapton first visited the United States while touring with Cream. In March 1967, Cream performed a nine-show stand at the RKO Theater in New York. They recorded Disraeli Gearsin New York from 11–15 May 1967. Cream’s repertoire varied from hard rock (“I Feel Free“) to lengthy blues-based instrumental jams (“Spoonful“). Disraeli Gears featured Clapton’s searing guitar lines, Bruce’s soaring vocals and prominent, fluid bass playing, and Baker’s powerful, polyrhythmic jazz-influenced drumming. Together, Cream’s talents secured themselves as an influential power trio.
In 28 months, Cream had become a commercial success, selling millions of records and playing throughout the U.S. and Europe. They redefined the instrumentalist’s role in rock and were one of the first blues-rock bands to emphasise musical virtuosity and lengthy jazz-style improvisation sessions. Their U.S. hit singles include “Sunshine of Your Love” (#5, 1968), “White Room” (#6, 1968) and “Crossroads” (#28, 1969) – a live version of Robert Johnson‘s “Cross Road Blues”. Though Cream was hailed as one of the greatest groups of its day, and the adulation of Clapton as a guitar hero reached new heights, the supergroup was short-lived. Drug and alcohol use escalated tension between the three members, and conflicts between Bruce and Baker eventually led to Cream’s demise. A strongly critical Rolling Stone review of a concert of the group’s second headlining U.S. tour was another significant factor in the trio’s demise, and it affected Clapton profoundly.
“I Shot The Sheriff”
Cream’s farewell album, Goodbye, featuring live performances recorded at The Forum, Los Angeles, 19 October 1968, was released shortly after Cream disbanded; it also featured the studio single “Badge“, co-written by Clapton and George Harrison. Clapton met Harrison and became friends with him after the Beatles shared a bill with the Clapton-era Yardbirds at the London Palladium. The close friendship between Clapton and Harrison resulted in Clapton’s playing on Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from the Beatles’ White Album (1968). Harrison also released his solo debut album, Wonderwall Music, in 1968. It became the first of many Harrison solo records to feature Clapton on guitar. Clapton would go largely uncredited for his contributions to Harrison’s albums due to contractual restraints. The pair would often play live together as each other’s guest. A year after Harrison’s death in 2001, Clapton helped organise a tribute concert, for which he was musical director.
Cream briefly reunited in 1993 to perform at the ceremony inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; a full reunion took place in May 2005, with Clapton, Bruce, and Baker playing four sold-out concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and three shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden that October. Recordings from the London shows, Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005, were released on CD, LP, and DVD in September/December 2005.
Blind Faith and Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
Clapton’s next group, Blind Faith (1969), was composed of Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood of Traffic, and Ric Grech of Family, and yielded one LP and one arena-circuit tour. The supergroup debuted before 100,000 fans in London’s Hyde Park on 7 June 1969. They performed several dates in Scandinavia and began a sold-out American tour in July before their only album was released. The LP Blind Faith consisted of just six songs, one of them a 15-minute jam entitled “Do What You Like”. The album’s jacket image of a topless pubescent girl was deemed controversial in the United States and was replaced by a photograph of the band. Blind Faith dissolved after less than seven months.
Clapton subsequently toured as a sideman for an act that had opened for Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. He also played two dates as a member of The Plastic Ono Band that fall, including a recorded performance at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in September 1969 released as the album Live Peace in Toronto 1969. On 15 December 1969 Clapton performed with John Lennon, George Harrison, and others as the Plastic Ono Band at a fundraiser for UNICEF in London.
Delaney Bramlett encouraged Clapton in his singing and writing. During the summer of 1969, Clapton and Bramlett contributed to the Music From Free Creek “supersession” project. Clapton, appearing as “King Cool” for contractual reasons, played with Dr. John on three songs, joined by Bramlett on two tracks.
Using the Bramletts’ backing group and an all-star cast of session players (including Leon Russell and Stephen Stills), Clapton recorded his first solo album during two brief tour hiatuses, fittingly named Eric Clapton. Delaney Bramlett co-wrote six of the songs with Clapton, and Bonnie Bramlett co-wrote “Let It Rain”. The album yielded the unexpected U.S. #18 hit, J. J. Cale‘s “After Midnight”. Clapton went with Delaney and Bonnie from the stage to the studio with the Dominos to record George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass in spring 1970. During this busy period, Clapton also recorded with other artists including Dr. John, Leon Russell, Plastic Ono Band, Billy Preston, and Ringo Starr.
Derek and the Dominos
Clapton’s close friendship with George Harrison brought him into contact with Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd, with whom he became deeply infatuated. When she spurned his advances, Clapton’s unrequited affections prompted most of the material for the Dominos’ album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). Heavily blues-influenced, the album features the twin lead guitars of Allman and Clapton, with Allman’s slide guitar as a key ingredient of the sound. Working at Criteria Studios in Miami with Atlantic Recordsproducer Tom Dowd, who had worked with Clapton on Cream’s Disraeli Gears, the band recorded a double album.
“Change The World”
The album features the hit love song “Layla“, inspired by the classical poet of Persian literature, Nizami Ganjavi‘s The Story of Layla and Majnun, a copy of which Ian Dallas had given to Clapton. The book moved Clapton profoundly, as it was the tale of a young man who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful, unavailable woman and who went crazy because he could not marry her. The two parts of “Layla” were recorded in separate sessions: the opening guitar section was recorded first, and for the second section, laid down several months later, drummer Jim Gordon composed and played the piano part.
The Layla LP was actually recorded by a five-piece version of the group, thanks to the unforeseen inclusion of guitarist Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band. A few days into the Layla sessions, Dowd—who was also producing the Allmans—invited Clapton to an Allman Brothers outdoor concert in Miami. The two guitarists met first on stage, then played all night in the studio, and became friends. Duane first added his slide guitar to “Tell the Truth” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out“. In four days, the five-piece Dominos recorded “Key to the Highway“, “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” (a blues standard popularised by Freddie King and others), and “Why Does Love Got to be So Sad”. In September, Duane briefly left the sessions for gigs with his own band, and the four-piece Dominos recorded “I Looked Away”, “Bell Bottom Blues“, and “Keep on Growing”. Duane returned to record “I am Yours”, “Anyday”, and “It’s Too Late”. On September 9, they recorded Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and the title track. The following day, the final track, “It’s Too Late”, was recorded.
Tragedy dogged the group throughout its brief career. During the sessions, Clapton was devastated by news of the death of Jimi Hendrix; eight days previously the band had cut a cover of “Little Wing” as a tribute to Hendrix. On 17 September 1970, one day before Hendrix’s death, Clapton had purchased a left-handed Fender Stratocaster that he had planned to give to Hendrix as a birthday gift. Adding to Clapton’s woes, the Layla album received only lukewarm reviews upon release. The shaken group undertook a U.S. tour without Allman, who had returned to the Allman Brothers Band. Despite Clapton’s later admission that the tour took place amidst a veritable blizzard of drugs and alcohol, it resulted in the live double album In Concert. The band had recorded several tracks for a second album in London during the spring of 1971 (five of which were released on the Eric Clapton box-set Crossroads), but the results were mediocre.
A second record was in the works when a clashing of egos took place and Clapton walked, thus disbanding the group. Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident on 29 October 1971. Although Radle would remain Clapton’s bass player until the summer of 1979 (Radle died in May 1980 from the effects of alcohol and narcotics), it would be 2003 before Clapton and Whitlock appeared together again (Clapton guested on Whitlock’s appearance on the Later with Jools Holland show). Another tragic footnote to the Dominos story was the fate of drummer Jim Gordon, who was an undiagnosed schizophrenic and years later murdered his mother during a psychotic episode. Gordon was confined to 16-years-to-life imprisonment, later being moved to a mental institution, where he remains today.
Clapton’s career successes in the 1970s were in stark contrast to his personal life, which was troubled by romantic longings and drug and alcohol addiction. While suffering his (temporarily) unrequited and intense attraction to Pattie Boyd, he withdrew from recording and touring to isolation in his Surrey, England, residence. There he nursed his heroin addiction, which resulted in a career hiatus interrupted only by the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971 (where he passed out on stage, was revived, and continued his performance). In January 1973, The Who‘s Pete Townshend organised a comeback concert for Clapton at London’s Rainbow Theatre, aptly titled the “Rainbow Concert“, to help Clapton kick his addiction. Clapton would return the favour by playing ‘The Preacher’ in Ken Russell’s film version of The Who’s Tommy in 1975; his appearance in the film (performing “Eyesight to the Blind”) is notable as he is clearly wearing a fake beard in some shots, the result of deciding to shave off his real beard after the initial takes in an attempt to force the director to remove his earlier scene from the movie and leave the set.
In 1974, now partnered with Pattie (they would not actually marry until 1979) and no longer using heroin (although starting to drink heavily), Clapton put together a more low-key touring band that included Radle, Miami guitarist George Terry, keyboardist Dick Sims, drummer Jamie Oldaker, and vocalists Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy (also known as Marcella Detroit). With this band Clapton recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974), an album with an emphasis on more compact songs and fewer guitar solos; the cover version of “I Shot The Sheriff” was Clapton’s first #1 hit and was important in bringing reggae and the music of Bob Marley to a wider audience. The 1975 album There’s One in Every Crowd continued this trend. The album’s original title, The World’s Greatest Guitar Player (There’s One In Every Crowd), was changed before pressing, as it was felt its ironic intention would be misunderstood. The band toured the world and subsequently released the 1975 live LP, E.C. Was Here. Clapton continued to release albums and toured regularly. Highlights of the period include No Reason to Cry (a collaboration with Bob Dylan and The Band); Slowhand, which featured “Wonderful Tonight” (another song inspired by Boyd); and a second J.J. Cale cover, “Cocaine“. In 1976 he performed, alongside a string of notable guests, to pay tribute to the farewell performance of The Band, filmed in a Martin Scorsese documentary called the Last Waltz.
“Somewhere Over The Rainbow”
In 1981 Clapton was invited by producer Martin Lewis to appear at the Amnesty International benefit The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball. Clapton accepted the invitation and teamed up with Jeff Beck to perform a series of duets—reportedly their first-ever billed stage collaboration. Three of the performances were released on the album of the show, and one of the songs was featured in the film. The performances heralded a return to form and prominence for Clapton in the new decade. Many factors had influenced Clapton’s comeback, including his “deepening commitment to Christianity”, to which he had converted prior to his heroin addiction.
After an embarrassing fishing incident, Clapton finally called his manager and admitted he was an alcoholic. In January 1982 Roger and Clapton flew to Minneapolis – St. Paul; Clapton would be checked in at Hazelden Treatment Center, located in Center City, Minnesota. On the flight over, Clapton indulged in a large number of drinks, for fear he would never be able to drink again. Clapton is quoted as saying from his autobiography, “In the lowest moments of my life, the only reason I didn’t commit suicide was that I knew I wouldn’t be able to drink any more if I was dead. It was the only thing I thought was worth living for, and the idea that people were about to try and remove me from alcohol was so terrible that I drank and drank and drank, and they had to practically carry me into the clinic.”
After being discharged, it was recommended by doctors of Hazelden that Clapton not partake in any activities that would act as triggers for his alcoholism or stress, until he was fully situated back at Hurtwood. A few months after his discharge, Clapton began working on his next album, against the Hazelden doctors’ orders. Working with Tom Dowd, Clapton produced what he thought as his “most forced” album to date, Money and Cigarettes.
In 1984 he performed on Pink Floyd member Roger Waters‘ solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, and went on tour with Waters following the release of the album. Since then Waters and Clapton have had a close relationship. In 2005 they performed together for the Tsunami Relief Fund. In 2006 they performed at the Highclere Castle, in aid of the Countryside Alliance, playing two set pieces of “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb“. Clapton, now a seasoned charity performer, played at the Live Aid concert on 13 July 1985. When offered a slot close to peak viewing hours, he was apparently flattered. As Clapton recovered from his addictions, his album output continued in the 1980s, including two produced with Phil Collins, 1985’s Behind the Sun, which produced the hits “Forever Man” and “She’s Waiting”, and 1986’s August.
August was suffused with Collins’s trademark drum and horn sound, and became Clapton’s biggest seller in the UK to date, matching his highest chart position, number 3. The album’s first track, the hit “It’s In The Way That You Use It”, was featured in the Tom Cruise –Paul Newman movie The Color of Money. The horn-peppered “Run” echoed Collins’ “Sussudio” and rest of the producer’s Genesis/solo output, while “Tearing Us Apart” (with Tina Turner) and the bitter “Miss You” echoed Clapton’s angry sound. This rebound kicked off Clapton’s two-year period of touring with Collins and their August collaborates, bassist Nathan East and keyboard player/songwriter Greg Phillinganes. While on tour for August, two concert videos were recorded of the four-man band, Eric Clapton Live from Montreuxand Eric Clapton and Friends. Clapton later remade “After Midnight” as a single and a promotional track for the Michelob beer brand, which had also marketed earlier songs by Collins and Steve Winwood. Clapton won a British Academy Television Award for his collaboration with Michael Kamen on the score for the 1985 BBC Television thriller serial Edge of Darkness. In 1989, Clapton releasedJourneyman, an album which covered a wide range of styles including blues, jazz, soul and pop. Collaborators included George Harrison, Phil Collins, Daryl Hall, Chaka Khan, Mick Jones, David Sanborn and Robert Cray.
In 1984, while still married to Pattie Boyd, Clapton began a year-long relationship with Yvonne Kelly. The two had a daughter, Ruth, who was born in January 1985, but her existence was kept a secret by her parents. She was not publicly revealed as his child until 1991. Boyd criticised Clapton because he had not revealed the child’s existence.
Hurricane Hugo hit Montserrat in 1989, and this resulted in the closure of Sir George Martin and John Burgess’s recording studio AIR Montserrat, where Kelly was Managing Director. Kelly and Ruth moved back to England, and stories about Eric’s secret daughter began as a result of newspaper articles published at the time. Clapton and Boyd divorced in 1988 following his affair with Italian model Lory Del Santo, who gave birth to their son, Conor, on 21 August 1986. Boyd was never able to conceive children, despite attempts at in vitro fertilisation. Their divorce was granted on grounds of “infidelity and unreasonable behaviour.”
Clapton was known to date a host of beautiful women, including Krissy Wood (ex-wife of Ron Wood), actress Charlotte Martin, socialiteAlice Ormsby-Gore, Paula Boyd (the younger sister of his future wife Pattie), singer Janis Joplin, singer Marianne Faithfull, rock muses Catherine James, Cyrinda Fox, and Geraldine Edwards, the inspiration for Penny Lane in Almost Famous, singer Rosanne Cash, the First Lady of France and former model Carla Bruni, and actresses Patsy Kensit, Sharon Stone, and Alicia Witt.
The 1990s brought a series of 32 concerts to the Royal Albert Hall, such as the 24 Nights series of concerts that took place around January through February 1990, and February through March 1991. On 27 August 1990, fellow blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was touring with Clapton, and three members of their road crew were killed in a helicopter crash between concerts. Then, on 20 March 1991, Clapton’s four-year-old son, Conor, died on impact after a fall from the 53rd-story window of his mother’s friend’s New York City apartment. He landed on the roof of an adjacent four-story building. Clapton’s grief was expressed in the song “Tears in Heaven“, which was co-written by Will Jennings. At the35th Grammy Awards, Clapton received six Grammy Awards for the single “Tears in Heaven” and his Unplugged album. The album reached number one on the Billboard 200, and has since been certified Diamond by the RIAA for selling over 10 million copies in the United States.
In October 1992 Clapton was among the dozens of artists performing at Bob Dylan‘s 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration. Recorded at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the live two-disk CD/DVD captured a show full of celebrities performing classic Dylan songs, before ending with a few performances from Dylan himself. Despite the presence of 10 other guitarists on stage, including George Harrison, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn, Steve Cropper, Tom Petty, and Dylan, Clapton played the lead on a nearly 7-minute version of Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” as part of the finale.
While Unplugged featured Clapton playing acoustic guitar, his 1994 album From the Cradle contained new versions of old blues standards, highlighted by his electric guitar playing. Clapton’s 1996 recording of the Wayne Kirkpatrick/Gordon Kennedy/Tommy Sims tune “Change the World” (featured in the soundtrack of the movie Phenomenon) won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1997, the same year he recorded Retail Therapy (an album of electronic music with Simon Climie under the pseudonym TDF). The following year, Clapton released the album Pilgrim, the first record featuring new material for almost a decade. Clapton finished the twentieth century with collaborations withCarlos Santana and B. B. King.
In 1996 Clapton had a relationship with singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow. They remain friends, and Clapton appeared as a guest on Crow’s Central Park Concert. The duo performed a Cream hit single, “White Room“. Later, Clapton and Crow performed an alternate version of “Tulsa Time” with other guitar legends at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in June 2007.
In 1998 Clapton, then 53, met 22-year-old administrative assistant Melia McEnery in Columbus, Ohio, at a party given for him after a performance. He quietly dated her for a year, and went public with the relationship in 1999. They married on 1 January 2002 at St Mary Magdalene church in Clapton’s birthplace, Ripley. As of 2005 they have three daughters, Julie Rose (13 June 2001), Ella May (14 January 2003), and Sophie Belle (1 February 2005).
Following the release of the 2001 record Reptile, Eric performed “Layla” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the Party at the Palace in 2002. On 29 November of that year the Concert for George was held at the Royal Albert Hall, a tribute to George Harrison, who had died a year earlier of cancer. Clapton was a performer and the musical director. The concert featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Ravi Shankar, Gary Brooker, Billy Preston, Joe Brown and Dhani Harrison. In 2004, Clapton released two albums of covers of songs by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, Me and Mr. Johnson and Sessions for Robert J. The same year, Rolling Stone ranked Clapton #53 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.
On 22 January 2005, Clapton performed in the Tsunami Relief Concert held at the Millennium Stadium inCardiff, in aid of the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. In May 2005 Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker reunited as Cream for a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Concert recordings were released on CD and DVD. Later, Cream performed in New York at Madison Square Garden. Back Home, Clapton’s first album of new original material in nearly five years, was released on Reprise Records on30 August. In 2006 he invited Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II to join his band for his 2006–2007 world tour. Trucks is the third member of the Allman Brothers Band to tour supportng Clapton, the second being pianist/keyboardist Chuck Leavell, who appeared on the MTV Unplugged album and the 24 Nightsperformances at the Royal Albert Hall theatre of London in 1990 and 1991, as well as Clapton’s 1992 U.S. tour.
On 20 May 2006, Clapton performed with Queen drummer Roger Taylor and former Pink Floydbassist/songwriter Roger Waters at the Highclere Castle, in support of the Countryside Alliance. On 13 August 2006, Clapton made a guest appearance at the Bob Dylan concert in Columbus, Ohio, playing guitar on three songs in Jimmie Vaughan‘s opening act. A collaboration with guitarist J. J. Cale, titled The Road to Escondido, was released on 7 November 2006, featuring Derek Trucks and Billy Preston. The 14-track CD was produced and recorded by the duo in August 2005 in California. The chemistry between Trucks and Clapton convinced him to invite The Derek Trucks Band to open for Clapton’s set at his 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival. Trucks remained on set afterward, performed with Clapton’s band throughout his performances, and later embarked on a world tour with him.
On 26 February 2008, it was reported that North Korean officials had invited Clapton to play a concert in the communist state. Clapton’s management received the invitation and passed it on to the singer, who agreed in principle and suggested it take place sometime in 2009. Kristen Foster, a spokesperson, said, “Eric Clapton receives numerous offers to play in countries around the world,” and “[t]here is no agreement whatsoever for him to play in North Korea.”
In 2007 Clapton learned more about his father, a Canadian soldier who left the UK after the war. Although Clapton’s grandparents eventually told him the truth about his parentage, he only knew that his father’s name was Edward Fryer. This was a source of disquiet for Clapton, as witnessed by his 1998 song “My Father’s Eyes“. A Montreal journalist named Michael Woloschuk researched Canadian Armed Forces service records and tracked down members of Fryer’s family, and finally pieced together the story. He learned that Clapton’s father was Edward Walter Fryer, born 21 March1920, in Montreal and died 15 May 1985 in Newmarket, Ontario. Fryer was a musician (piano and saxophone) and a lifelong drifter who was married several times, had several children, and apparently never knew that he was the father of Eric Clapton. Clapton thanked Woloschuk in an encounter at Macdonald Cartier Airport, in Ottawa, Canada.
In February 2008 Clapton performed with his long-time friend Steve Winwood at Madison Square Garden and guested on his recorded single, “Dirty City”, on Winwood’s album Nine Lives. The two former Blind Faith bandmates met again for a series of 14 concerts throughout the United States in June 2009.
Clapton’s 2008 Summer Tour began on 3 May at the Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa Bay, Florida, and then moved to Canada, Ireland, England, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Poland, Germany, and Monaco. On 28 June 2008, he headlined Saturday night for Hard Rock Calling 2008 in London’s Hyde Park (previously Hyde Park Calling) with support from Sheryl Crow and John Mayer. In September 2008 Clapton performed at a private charity fundraiser for The Countryside Alliance at Floridita in Soho, London, that included such guests as the London Mayor Boris Johnson.
In March 2009, the Allman Brothers Band (amongst many notable guests) celebrated their 40th year, dedicating their string of concerts to the late Duane Allman on their annual run at the Beacon Theatre. Eric Clapton was one of the performers, with drummerButch Trucks remarking that the performance was not the typical Allman Brothers experience, given the number and musical styles of the guests who were invited to perform. Songs like “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” were punctuated with others, including “The Weight“, with Levon Helm; Johnny Winter sitting in on Hendrix’s “Red House“; and “Layla”. On 4 May 2009 Clapton appeared as a featured guest at the Royal Albert Hall, playing “Further on Up the Road” with Joe Bonamassa.
Clapton was scheduled to be one of the performers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame‘s 25th anniversary concert in Madison Square Garden on 30 October 2009, but cancelled due to gallstone surgery. Van Morrison (who also cancelled) said in an interview that he and Clapton were to do a “couple of songs”, but that they would do something else together at “some other stage of the game”.
Clapton performed a two-night show with Jeff Beck at London’s O2 Arena on 13–14 February 2010. The two former Yardbirds extended their 2010 tour with stops at Madison Square Garden, the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and the Bell Centre in Montreal. Clapton performed a series of concerts in 11 cities throughout the United States from 25 February to 13 March 2010, including Roger Daltrey as opening act. His third European tour with Steve Winwood began on 18 Mayand ended 13 June, including Tom Norris as opening act. He then began a short North American tour lasting from 26 June to 3 July, starting with his third Crossroads Guitar Festival on 26 June in Bridgeview, Illinois. Clapton released a new studio album, Clapton, on 27 September 2010 in the United Kingdom and 28 September 2010 in the United States. On 17 November 2010, Clapton performed as guest on the Prince’s Trust rock gala held at the Royal Albert Hall, supported by the house band for the evening, which included Jools Holland, Midge Ure and Mark King.
On 24 June 2011 Clapton was in concert with Pino Daniele in Cava de’ Tirreni stadium, Italy, with an audience of 15,000 people before performing a series of concerts in South America from 6 to 16 October 2011.