14. Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton is a guitarist, singer and songwriter from Ripley, Surrey, England, twenty five miles southwest of London. Eric’s mother Patty was only sixteen years old when she had Eric, and he was raised by his grandparents, only discovering that Patty was his mother years later. He received his first guitar as a present on his thirteenth birthday, and by the time he was sixteen, he was a proficient blues guitarist getting attention. In October, 1963, at the age if eighteen, Clapton became the lead guitarist for The Yardbirds, one of England’s premier blues bands.

Nicknamed “Slowhand”, Eric Clapton has enjoyed a long career, first as a master blues guitarist, and gradually incorporating singing and songwriting into his repertoire. Early in his career, he was restless, and performed in many well-known bands, including John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Blind Faith, Cream, and Derek & The Dominos, before settling into a solo career around 1970. Over the years, he evolved from blues purist to middle of the road pop star, while retaining his guitar chops. He is the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, as a solo artist and for his work with The Yardbirds and Cream.


Eric Clapton (b.1945), guitar, vocals, songwriter

www.ericclapton.com – Official Website

Some Famous Collaborators:

John Mayall (b. 1933), singer, guitarist, songwriter
Ginger Baker (b. 1939), drums
Jack Bruce (b. 1943), bass, singer, songwriter
Steve Winwood (b. 1948), keyboards, guitar, singer, songwriter
George Harrison (1943-2001), guitar, singer, songwriter
Bobby Whitlock (b. 1948), keyboards, singer, songwriter
Carl Radle (1942-1980), bass
Jim Gordon (b. 1945), drums
Duane Allman (1946-1971), guitar
Delaney Bramlett (1939-2008), singer, songwriter, guitar
Leon Russell (b. 1942), piano, vocals, songwriter
Nathan East (b. 1955), bass, background vocals
Ray Cooper (b. 1942), percussion
Chuck Leavell (b. 1952), keyboards

A Brief Analysis:

Compared to other performers near the top of this countdown, Eric Clapton wrote fewer pop standards, and is not what I would consider a great singer, though his voice improved with age and experience. He is a superb guitar player, a master of the pentatonic blues scale, and a restless musical innovator, especially in the glory days of the sixties and early seventies. In addition, he is a great champion of American blues music, introducing millions of fans to blues standards.

Here are two websites which discuss some of the more technical aspects of Clapton’s guitar technique and attention to production detail:

ProSoundWeb.com: A Production Analysis of Eric Clapton’s “Layla”
DinosaurRockGuitar.com: Analysis of Eric Clapton

The Yardbirds in 1964

Three Videos of Cream, 1967 and 1968

The band looks wasted out of their minds in the third video “Spoonful”.

Live Performance of “Spoonful”, by Cream, 1968

Blind Faith in 1969

Stevie Winwood sings Eric Clapton’s beautiful “Presence Of The Lord”.

Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?

As you can tell by the selected song list, I’m fond of the short project known as Derek & The Dominos, a spinoff of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. Clapton met Duane Allman at an Allman Brothers concert during this project, and their brief collaboration was special. It’s well-known that the album Layla was conceived during a difficult period in Clapton’s life, where he had fallen head over heels for Pattie Boyd Harrison, the wife of George Harrison.

Imagine how sad Eric felt when Duane Allman died. These two masters meet, brothers from another mother, and head directly to the studio for an all night jam session. They become immediate friends, and Eric asks Duane to sideline on the Layla project. Over the course of two months, they play and record together. Allman then says, “Man, I gotta go. I got my own band to take care of.” One year later, Allman is dead in a motorcycle accident at age 24. That would be tough to take.

Layla & Other Assorted Songs is not a favorite of mine, not something I listen to regularly forty years later, but I still like it a lot. Perhaps it’s the relentless desperation, or the production being kind of “dense” that makes it too intense at times. The songs were sounding very nice tonight, but this music demands your attention.

The song “Layla” is the most famous song from this album, but I like the live versions of “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?” best. Two live versions exist, from Fillmore East Auditorium in New York City on either October 23rd or 24th, 1970. The shorter version, which can found on iTunes on Layla And Other Assorted Songs (Remastered), is a big favorite. I remember where I heard it first, and consider it a tour de force performance.

“Like a moth to a flame,
Like a song without a name,
I’ve never been the same since I met you.
Like a bird on the wing,
I’ve got a brand new song to sing,
I can’t keep from singing about you.

I’m beginning to see,
What a fool you’ve made of me.
I might have to break the law when I find you.
Stop running away;
I’ve got a better game to play,
You know I can’t go on living without you.

Why does love got to be so sad?
Why does love got to be so sad?
Why does love got to be so sad?
Why does love got to be so sad?”

— Eric Clapton and Bobby Whitlock

Bobby Whitlock on organ and backing vocals. It ebbs and flows, from gentle to intense and back to a mellow finish, and swings for ten straight minutes. This is the concert showpiece, and the best song from Layla And Other Assorted Songs.

Unfortunately, we have few video clips available of the four piece Dominos. Here is a precious document courtesy of The Johnny Cash Show:

“The Curse of The Dominoes, by John Robinson, March 16, 2011

Let It Rain

Another favorite is “Let It Rain” from the first album, sometimes referred to as Eric Clapton (1970).

“The rain is falling through the mist,
Of sorrow that surrounded me.
The sun could never thaw away,
The bliss that lays around me.

Let it rain, let it rain,
Let your love rain down on me.
Let it rain, let it rain,
Let it rain, rain, rain.

Now I know the secret;
There is nothing that I lack.
If I give my love to you,
You’ll surely give it back.

Let it rain, let it rain,
Let your love rain down on me.
Let it rain, let it rain,
Let it rain, rain, rain.

— Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett and Eric Clapton

At the end of the song, the band takes off for a couple minutes. Eric with a little solo, followed by Bobby Whitlock’s cascades of piano keys, and then Eric returns with the big solo. Let it rain, let your love rain down on me. “Let It Rain” is another favorite, a classic from my childhood.

Here’s the best video I could find with Delaney & Bonnie.

Last Analysis

It took a long time narrowing down the songs. I might have missed your favorite, in which case feel free to suggest it. He has so many songs, and many of my favorites come from a time of long rock songs with long guitar solos. In particular, I like Clapton’s interpretations of old blues standards. As a result, the list of related songs is especially long, a who’s who in music. I enjoyed adding some old versions of these songs as part of the research.

There are quite a few good albums, among them 461 Ocean Boulevard, Eric Clapton (1970) and especially John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton. And fill up on Cream, because they are right there with Led Zeppelin as the template power trio.

Eric Clapton Song Notes:

1. J.J. Cale’s original version of “Cocaine” is similar, superior, and renders Clapton’s version superfluous. I also like Cale’s “After Midnight” best, but Clapton’s version is different and hot.

2. “Got To Get Better In A Little While (Live)”
“Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad (Live) (Alt)”
“Key To the Highway (Live)”
“Bottle Of Red Wine (Live)”
“Little Wing (Live)”

can be found on Live At The Fillmore (Remastered). Once again, refer to Layla And Assorted Songs (Remastered) to find the great version of “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?”.

3. “Farther Up The Road (Live)” (aka “Further On Up The Road”)
“Ramblin’ On My Mind (Live)”

are found on E.C. Was Here.

4. Many choices for “Presence Of The Lord (Live)”. Chose Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert this time. Stevie Winwood on vocals.

5. “Smile (Live)”
“Let It Grow (Live)”

are found on 461 Ocean Blvd. (Deluxe Edition), which has a nice vintage concert CD.

6. I remember liking “Pretty Blue Eyes” from There’s One In Every Crowd a long time ago.

7. “Early In The Morning (Live)” can be found on Just One Night (Live).

8. “Layla (Live)”
“Old Love (Live)”
“Before You Accuse Me (Live)”
“Tears In Heaven (Live)”
“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out (Live)”
“Walking Blues (Live)”

can be found on Unplugged.

9. “Please Be With Me (Acoustic)” can be found on Give Me Strength: The ’74/’75 Recordings.

Eric Clapton Songs:

Eric Clapton With Cream:

Crossroads (Live), Cream ★★★★
Badge, Cream ★★★★

Sleepy Time Time (Live), Cream ★★★
Sunshine Of Your Love, Cream ★★★

Tales Of Brave Ulysses, Cream ★★
Strange Brew, Cream ★★
Spoonful (Live), Cream ★★
Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (Live), Cream ★★

I Feel Free, Cream
I’m So Glad, Cream
Born Under A Bad Sign, Cream
White Room, Cream
Swalbr, Cream
Outside Woman Blues, Cream
Dance The Night Away, Cream

Eric as Derek With The Dominos:

Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad? (Live), Derek & The Dominos ★★★★★

Layla, Derek & The Dominos ★★★★

Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?, Derek & The Dominos ★★★
I Looked Away, Derek & The Dominos ★★★
Bell Bottom Blues, Derek & The Dominos ★★★
Got To Get Better In A Little While (Live), Derek & The Dominos ★★★

Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad? (Live) (Alt), Derek & The Dominos ★★
Key To the Highway (Live), Derek & The Dominos ★★
Little Wing, Derek & The Dominos ★★
Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Derek & The Dominos ★★

Keep On Growing, Derek & The Dominos
Anyday, Derek & The Dominos
Key To The Highway, Derek & The Dominos
Thorn Tree In The Garden, Derek & The Dominos
Bottle Of Red Wine (Live), Derek & The Dominos
Key To the Highway (Live), Derek & The Dominos
Little Wing (Live), Derek & The Dominos

Eric Clapton Solo:

Let It Rain, Eric Clapton ★★★★
Layla (Live), Eric Clapton ★★★★

Let It Grow, Eric Clapton ★★★
Old Love (Live), Eric Clapton ★★★
I Shot The Sheriff (Live), Eric Clapton ★★★

Before You Accuse Me (Live), Eric Clapton ★★
Change The World, Eric Clapton ★★
Ramblin’ On My Mind (Live), Eric Clapton ★★
Farther Up On The Road (Live), Eric Clapton ★★
Lay Down Sally, Eric Clapton ★★
Tears In Heaven (Live), Eric Clapton ★★
Walking Blues (Live), Eric Clapton ★★
After Midnight, Eric Clapton ★★
Steady Rollin’ Man, Eric Clapton ★★
I Can’t Hold Out, Eric Clapton ★★

Promises, Eric Clapton
I’ve Got A Rock ‘N’ Heart, Eric Clapton
Blues Power, Eric Clapton
Presence Of The Lord (Live), Eric Clapton
Early In The Morning (Live), Eric Clapton
Kind Hearted Woman Blues, Eric Clapton
Wonderful Tonight, Eric Clapton
Better Make It Through Today, Eric Clapton
Pretty Blue Eyes, Eric Clapton
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out (Live), Eric Clapton
Motherless Children, Eric Clapton
I Shot The Sheriff, Eric Clapton
Smile (Live), Eric Clapton
Let It Grow (Live), Eric Clapton
Please Be With Me (Acoustic), Eric Clapton

Related Songs:

Eric Clapton with the Yardbirds:

Honey In Your Hips, The Yardbirds ★★

Boom, Boom, The Yardbirds
Five Long Years (Live), The Yardbirds
Got To Hurry (Take 3), The Yardbirds

Eric Clapton with Blind Faith:

Can’t Find My Way Home, Blind Faith ★★★★
Presence Of The Lord, Blind Faith ★★★

Eric Clapton with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers:

All Your Love, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers ★★★
Hideaway, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers ★★★★
Little Girl, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
Another Man Done Gone, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers ★★★
Double Crossing Time, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers ★★★
What’d I Say, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers ★★
Parchman Farm, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers ★★
Ramblin’ On My Mind, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
Steppin’ Out, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers ★★
I’m Your Witchdoctor, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers

Eric Clapton as Guest Solo Guitarist:

While My Guitar Gently Weeps, The Beatles ★★★★

Go Back Home, Stephen Stills ★★★

Look At You, Look At Me, Dave Mason ★★★

The Red Rooster (False Start), Howlin’ Wolf ★★
Who’s Been Talkin’ (Alt), Howlin’ Wolf ★★

Other Related Songs:

Spoonful, Howlin’ Wolf ★★★★

Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Muddy Waters ★★★
Rollin’ And Tumblin’, The Seldom Scene ★★★
Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Bob Dylan ★★

Little Wing, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
Little Wing (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Little Wing (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★

Little Wing, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble ★★

I Shot The Sheriff, Bob Marley & The Wailers ★★★

Cocaine, J.J. Cale ★★★
After Midnight, J.J. Cale ★★★★

Before You Accuse Me, Bo Diddley ★★★
Before You Accuse Me, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band

Farther Up The Road, Bobby “Blue” Bland ★★★★

At The Break Of Day, Big Bill Broonzy
Early In The Morning, Sonny Boy Williamson I
Early In The Morning (Live), Van Morrison

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Louis Jordan & His Tympani Five ★★★★
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Bessie Smith ★★

Motherless Children, Blind Willie Johnson ★★
Motherless Children, Roscoe Holcomb

Smile, Tony Bennett ★★

Boom Boom, John Lee Hooker ★★★
Boom Boom, The Animals ★★

All Your Love, Otis Rush ★★

Hideaway, Freddie King ★★★
Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Freddie King ★★★

Another Man Done Gone, Carolina Chocolate Drops ★★
Another Man Done Gone, Vera Hall ★★
Another Man Done Gone, Johnny Cash ★★

What’d I Say, Ray Charles ★★★★
What’d I Say, Lyle Lovett ★★★

Parchman Farm Blues, Bukka White
Parchman Farm, Mose Allison ★★★

Danger, J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton
Ride The River, J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton

Cocaine, J.J. Cale ★★★
After Midnight, J.J. Cale ★★★★

Born Under A Bad Sign, Albert King ★★

Crossroads Blues, Robert Johnson ★★★
Ramblin’ On My Mind, Robert Johnson ★★
Walking Blues, Robert Johnson

Walking Blues, Paul Butterfield Blues Band ★★
Walking Blues, Muddy Waters

Kind Hearted Woman, Muddy Waters ★★

Key To The Highway, Big Bill Broonzy ★★★
Key To The Highway, Little Walter ★★

Hideaway, Freddie King ★★★
Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Freddie King ★★★

Steppin’ Out, Memphis Slim ★★★

2 thoughts on “14. Eric Clapton

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