Eric Clapton: Hello Old Friend

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12:  Eric Clapton performs at "12-12-12" a concert benefiting The Robin Hood Relief Fund to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy presented by Clear Channel Media & Entertainment, The Madison Square Garden Company and The Weinstein Company at Madison Square Garden on December 12, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Clear Channel)

Singer/ songwriter/ guitar god Eric Clapton, Commanding Officer of the British Empire turns 71 on March 30th, 2016 and without meeting him in person, he might be the best friend any us has ever had.

     Eric Patrick Clapton was born on March 30th, 1945 in Ripley, Surrey, England. And was raised by his maternal grandparents, growing up believing they were his parents and his mother was his older sister. After being influenced by American blues, he took up guitar at age 14, and after what seems to be obligatory study in art school like countless British rock musicians of his generation, started gigging with bands 3 years later. He joined the Yardbirds in 1953 at age 18.

While it is easy to over-emphasize his overall contributions to music as we know it, there is a great deal of history that never would have occurred with Clapton being a friend and getting some help from his friends as well. He split the Yardbirds in 1965, joined John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and then left to form Cream with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. They split and in 1969 he formed the short-lived super group Blind Faith with Baker and Steve Winwood and Ric Grech. From there it was a brief tenure with Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett and Friends, and then another short-lived super group with Duane Allman in Derek and the Dominoes in 1970, before starting his solo career later that same year at the still young age of only 25.

Like the good friend he is, he appeared on Beatles recordings (George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”), provided a country sabbatical at his home where Harrison composed “Here Comes the Sun”, originally wrote the Cream signature song “Sunshine of Your Love” for Jimi Hendrix to record, played live and on record with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, and even politely declined membership offers not once but twice from the Rolling Stones.

He would team up for studio albums with B.B. King (“Riding With the King” in 2000) and J.J. Cale (“The Road to Escondido” in 2006). He would record the duet “Runaway Train” with Elton John in 1992, and do countless sessions with artists like Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson, Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan., and Roger Waters.

He has performed live at historically groundbreaking benefit concerts including  the 1969 fundraising show for UNICEF with the Plastic Ono Band, the Concert for Bangla Desh with George Harrison in 1971, The Secret Policeman’s Ball in 1981. the ARMS benefit concerts in 1983, Live-Aid in 1985, the Prince’s Trust and several of his own Crossroads Guitar Festivals.

     He was the first to donate a guitar for display at the Hard Rock Café, establishing a precedent that is now a merit badge for a myriad of artists worldwide. He brought reggae to the mainstream with his cover version of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” (Clapton’s only #1 single) and honored the dearly departed with tribute albums for Robert Johnson and J.J. Cale and a memorial “Concert for George”, saluting the ex-Beatle. He said he would retire at 70, but has a new LP “I Still Do” scheduled for release later this year. What a pal! Like an old friend, let’s all be glad Eric Clapton is still with us and wish him a very Happy Birthday.

 

 

 

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