[lang_fr]Eric Clapton : Biographie[/lang_fr][lang_en]Eric Clapton : Biography[/lang_en]

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Eric Clapton est un guitariste, chanteur et compositeur de blues et de rock britannique né le 30 mars 1945 à Ripley, près de Londres (Angleterre).En 2003 Rolling Stone l’a classé 4ème meilleur guitariste de tous les temps.

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Eric Patrick Clapton CBE (born 30 March 1945), nicknamed « Slowhand », is a Grammy Award winning English guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer.
He is one of the most successful musicians of the 20th and 21st century, garnering an unprecedented three inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (The Yardbirds, Cream, and solo). Often viewed by critics and fans alike as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Eric Clapton was ranked 4th in Rolling Stone’s list of The Greatest Guitarists of All Time and #53 on their list of the The Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

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Né à Ripley, dans le Surrey au Royaume-Uni, Eric Clapton est le fils naturel d’un soldat canadien et d’une jeune anglaise de 16 ans. Son père, parti combattre en Europe peu après sa naissance, est ensuite retourné au Canada.
Sa mère étant encore trop jeune pour s’occuper de lui, le jeune Eric est confié à ses grands-parents maternels (dont le nom, Clapp, est à l’origine de la fausse rumeur selon laquelle le véritable nom du guitariste serait Clapp).
Il sera plus tard définitivement abandonné par sa mère, partie à son tour au Canada au bras d’un autre soldat.

L’histoire de sa naissance resta longtemps un secret de famille, et l’enfant n’apprend qu’à l’âge de 9 ans que ceux qu’il croyait ses parents ne l’étaient pas, et que sa prétendue grande sœur était en réalité sa mère. Le choc est terrible pour Eric.

L’enfance de Clapton ne se passe pas sans accrocs – il a plus tard confessé avoir été un « sale gosse ». Peu attentif à l’école, il faillit même abandonner l’apprentissage de la guitare – il avait reçu sa première acoustique en cadeau pour ses 13 ans – qu’il jugeait trop difficile ! Postier pour gagner quelques sous, il intègre la classe de design de l’École d’Art de Kingston, dont ses résultats médiocres lui valent d’être rapidement renvoyé.

Encore adolescent, Eric Clapton puise son inspiration musicale – il est finalement parvenu à jouer un peu de guitare – dans le blues américain : Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf et surtout Robert Johnson, le légendaire bluesman du Mississippi. Surnommé par ses amis « Eric the mod » en référence à ses vêtements qui rappellent le mouvement mods, il commence vers 1962 à fréquenter des clubs de musiciens comme le « Ealing club » de Londres, dans lequel se produisent notamment les Rolling Stones.

Il les accompagnera même occasionnellement comme … chanteur !
Peu confiant à l’époque envers ses talents guitaristiques, il déclare : « J’en fais un peu; j’ai bossé quelques trucs de blues depuis un moment; rien de sérieux.»

C’est pourtant l’apprentissage par cœur d’un album de Chuck Berry qui lui permet finalement d’intégrer en mars 1963 son premier groupe : les Roosters. Il joue avec eux jusqu’au mois d’octobre de la même année, puis, lorsque le groupe se dissout, rejoint Casey Jones And The Engineers en même temps que Tom McGuiness (l’ancien bassiste des Roosters).

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Mais cette nouvelle association ne dure qu’un mois : Clapton, qui a déjà acquis une certaine réputation en tant que guitariste, est embauché par les Yardbirds, qui seront son premier groupe véritablement professionnel.

Avec l’arrivée de Clapton, les Yardbirds commencent à véritablement décoller. Petit groupe de rock and roll comme tant d’autres, très influencé par le blues, ils ne jouent aucune composition personnelle, se limitant à des morceaux de blues issus des catalogues Chess, Checker ou Vee-Jay.
Succédant aux Rolling Stones comme groupe résident du légendaire Crawdaddy Club de Richmond, ils deviennent un groupe culte parmi les jeunes anglais branchés fans de blues. Leurs premiers singles, I Wish You Would et A Certain Girl, sont des succès relatifs, et ils partent même en tournée en 1963 avec le bluesman américain Sonny Boy Williamson, enregistrant ensemble un album qui sortira plus tard à la fois comme un disque des Yardbirds et de Williamson !

Clapton, de son côté, crée peu à peu son style personnel : façon de jouer bien sûr, synthétisant de manière révolutionnaire les influences de Buddy Guy, Freddie King et B.B. King, mais aussi de s’habiller. Cette forte personnalité, ainsi que ses talents de guitariste (pourtant assez peu mis en avant sur les premiers enregistrements du groupe), lui valent d’en devenir le principal soliste.

Devenant rapidement une figure importante de la scène anglaise, il se fait un surnom : Slowhand, référence ironique à la vitesse, extraordinaire pour l’époque, à laquelle il joue, ou jeu de mots sur slow-hand clap (applaudissements exprimant l’impatience ou le mécontentement du public).
Mais en mai 1965, le premier vrai succès du groupe, For Your Love coïncide avec le départ du guitariste, mal à l’aise à cause de cette chanson trop « commerciale ».

En effet, à cette époque, Clapton est encore un fanatique de blues authentique, qui considère comme une trahison de jouer autre chose que des reprises de grands bluesmen. De plus, les paroles de For Your Love sont l’œuvre de l’auteur de variétés Graham Gouldman, connu pour son travail avec des groupes pour adolescents tels que Herman’s Hermits ou The Hollies. Recommandant le jeune Jimmy Page à ses collègues, Clapton part donc rejoindre les Bluesbreakers de John Mayall, que nul ne peut soupçonner de trahison envers le blues…

Parti se reposer à Oxford chez Ben Palmer (l’ancien guitariste des Roosters), Clapton ne reste pas inactif très longtemps après son départ des Yardbirds : dès mars 1965, John Mayall lui propose de rejoindre les Bluesbreakers. À l’époque, le groupe est déjà une référence du R&B britannique, Clapton accepte donc la proposition.
Echangeant sa Fender Telecaster contre une Gibson Les Paul Standard pour un son plus authentique et puissant, Clapton joue avec passion, et assoit sa réputation d’instrumentiste prodige. Ce qui ne l’empêche pas de manquer parfois de sérieux, allant jusqu’à rater certains engagements … Lassé par la routine des concerts dans les night-clubs, il abandonne en août 1965 les Bluesbreakers pour se joindre à un groupe composite supposé parcourir le monde : The Glands.

L’intention première de ce groupe de « musiciens voyageurs » était de parcourir le monde dans un autobus à deux étages, en jouant un peu partout. Une épopée qui s’achève rapidement en Grèce, d’où ils reviennent sans un sou après avoir eu un accident de la route et s’être presque fait kidnapper à Athènes. Clapton reprend donc dès octobre 1965 sa place au sein des Bluesbreakers …

Son escapade avec The Glands n’a nullement entamé la réputation de Clapton, qui devient peu à peu une véritable idole, et gagne un nouveau surnom : sur les palissades et dans le métro de Londres fleurit l’inscription « Clapton is God » (Clapton est Dieu). Un nouveau statut difficile à assumer pour le jeune guitariste, qui hésite dans ses déclarations entre la conviction qu’il possède des « pouvoirs » et leur dénégation.

En mars 1966, Clapton, Mayall et les Bluesbreakers enregistrent l’album « John Mayall’s Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton ». Considéré encore aujourd’hui comme un monument du British Blues Boom, le disque connaît un grand succès, mais son titre, ambigu, ne satisfait ni les membres des Bluesbreakers, ni Clapton qui trouve que son nom « se voit moins que celui de John Mayall ».
Quand l’album sort, Clapton a déjà quitté le groupe. Il vient en effet de former avec Jack Bruce et Ginger Baker un « supergroupe » qui deviendra bientôt Cream.

Formé par trois musiciens déjà très célèbres – Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker et Jack Bruce – Cream est le premier « supergroupe« , et l’un des premiers « power-trios » célèbres.

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Il est aussi pour Clapton l’occasion de développer sa technique de chant et ses talents de guitariste et d’auteur de chansons. Attendu comme un groupe de blues pur et dur, le groupe s’oriente pourtant dès son premier album vers une musique Pop autant inspirée par le psychédélisme que par le blues. Un terrain fertile à partir duquel Clapton crée un style de guitare plus expérimental que jamais : les concerts du groupe sont l’occasion de très longues improvisations à un volume délirant pour l’époque, où Clapton, qui doit assurer à la fois la rythmique et les solos, est forcé de se surpasser.

D’autant que malgré les déclarations enthousiastes de la presse et de leurs proches, l’ambiance n’est pas toujours au beau fixe entre les membres de Cream : leur association se fonde plus sur une rivalité parfois brutale que sur une réelle émulation. Plus tard, Henry Shapiro exprimera clairement la situation : « Cream est mort le jour où ils ont cessé de faire des étincelles entre eux ».

En 1967, la popularité de Clapton est quelque peu entamée par l’arrivée à Londres de Jimi Hendrix, dont le style flamboyant concurrence le sien. Venu en Angleterre, de son propre aveu, pour rencontrer Clapton, le guitariste noir devient rapidement une nouvelle idole, y compris pour Clapton lui-même, les Rolling Stones et les Beatles.
Mais Clapton continue à être désigné par tous les sondages des magazines comme le « meilleur guitariste du monde », et le succès d’Hendrix n’empêche pas Cream de vendre près de 15 millions de disques à travers le monde !

Après trois albums, le groupe est cependant victime de l’inimitié qui règne entre ses trois membres, mais aussi des hésitations de Clapton. Ce dernier est en effet très affecté par une critique négative d’un concert de Cream lue dans le magazine Rolling Stone, ainsi que par sa découverte de l’album Music From Bing Pink du groupe américain The Band, qui lui fait penser que le rock and roll est en train de prendre une nouvelle direction. À tel point qu’il tentera, en vain, de joindre le groupe !

Le dernier album de Cream, Goodbye, disque live posthume, parait donc en 1968. Il contient, entre autres, la chanson Badge, première collaboration de Clapton avec son ami George Harrison, célébrissime guitariste des Beatles.
Clapton jouera ensuite le solo de While My Guitar Gently Weeps, chanson de Harrison figurant sur l' »album blanc« , devenant ainsi le premier – et le seul – musicien extérieur au groupe à jouer de la guitare sur un disque des Beatles. Lorsqu’en janvier 1969, Harrison quitta brièvement le groupe en plein milieu de l’enregistrement de Let It Be, John Lennon proposera même que Clapton le remplace !

Après la séparation de Cream, Clapton fonde un nouveau supergroupe, Blind Faith, avec l’ex-organiste et chanteur de Traffic Steve Winwood, à qui s’ajoute (après que l’industrie du disque ait décidé d’accélérer les choses) l’ex-Cream Ginger Baker. La frénésie que déclenche chez les fans la création de ce nouveau groupe dépasse encore celle suscitée par la formation de Cream.

Blind Faith apparaît pour la première fois en public devant une foule de 100 000 personnes à Hyde Park, le 7 juin 1969. Mais les musiciens, en particulier Clapton, semblent tendus, et beaucoup parmi le public sont déçus. Le groupe part ensuite pour une tournée américaine à guichets fermés, puis enregistre son unique album éponyme. Le disque est réalisé si rapidement que sa face 2 ne comporte que deux chansons, dont une improvisation de 15 minutes !

Jamais vraiment à la hauteur des attentes de Clapton comme du public, Blind Faith est dissout après moins d’un an d’existence, et Clapton, décidé à rester un peu plus dans l’ombre, cherche des musiciens pour réaliser son rêve, jouer une musique plus proche de celle du Band.

Pendant l’expérience Blind Faith, Eric Clapton a fait la connaissance de Delaney et Bonnie, un couple de musiciens « simples, naturels, libres et pas du tout vaniteux », qui prennent simplement plaisir à jouer : tout le contraire des « supergroupes » dont il est si fatigué. Il décide donc de les rejoindre, et les accompagne comme simple guitariste pour une tournée européenne. Au cours de ce voyage, Clapton s’ouvre à des influences musicales très diverses : musique sud-américaine, ballades, chansons lentes, chansons d’amour, thèmes Country, qu’il exploitera par la suite.

Mais la période « Delaney, Bonnie and Friends » est de courte durée : en septembre 1969, Clapton est entré un peu plus dans le cercle très restreint des Beatles en participant à un concert donné par John Lennon et Yoko Ono. Delaney et Bonnie ne l’acceptent pas, et la séparation intervient en 1970.

Commence alors une période de quelques mois au cours de laquelle Clapton, privé de groupe, n’en reste pas pour autant inactif : encouragé à chanter par Delaney, il enregistre en 1970 son premier album solo, sobrement intitulé Eric Clapton, avec quelques amis musiciens dont Leon Russel et Stephen Stills. L’album remporte un certain succès commercial, montant jusqu’à la 18e place des charts américains. Il joue également sur plusieurs disques d’amis, comme le célèbre All Things Must Pass de George Harrison (même si, pour des raisons contractuelles, son nom n’apparaîtra pas sur la pochette avant plusieurs décennies) ou le premier album du Plastic Ono Band de John Lennon et Yoko Ono.

Clapton utilise alors une Fender Stratocaster surnommée Blackie qui restera sa guitare préférée durant 15 ans, jusqu’à ce que Fender crée un modèle du nom de Clapton.

Fin 1970, Clapton débauche la section rythmique de Delaney & Bonnie (le clavieriste Bobby Whitlock, le bassiste Carl Radle et le batteur Jim Gordon) et forme un nouveau groupe, Derek and the Dominos. Fatigué de son statut de star adulée, il a en effet envie de se couler dans un groupe dont il ne serait qu’un membre parmi d’autres. Le groupe entre rapidement en studio pour enregistrer son premier album, aujourd’hui considéré par beaucoup comme le chef d’œuvre de Clapton.

Les séances n’ont commencé que depuis quelques jours lorsqu’il rencontre le guitariste Duane Allman à un concert de son groupe, le Allman Brothers Band. Les deux musiciens, qui ne se connaissent que de réputation, jouent ensemble une séance impromptue (qui est enregistrée, et sortira bien plus tard, sur l’édition anniversaire 3 CD de l’album Layla), et tombent immédiatement amoureux, chacun de son côté, du jeu de l’autre. Allman est donc invité à devenir le cinquième Domino, et l’album du groupe devient principalement l’œuvre des deux guitaristes, dont les phrases s’entremêlent, s’imitent et s’émulent sans cesse.

L’autre aspect essentiel de cet album, intitulé Layla and other assorted love songs, se trouve dans la chanson titre, Layla, qui sera deux ans plus tard, un grand tube partout dans le monde. L’histoire de ce morceau commence en mars 1964, lorsque George Harrison rencontre le jeune mannequin Pattie Boyd sur le tournage de A Hard Day’s Night, le premier film des Beatles.
C’est le coup de foudre, et ils finissent par se fiancer. Clapton, lui, a fait la connaissance du couple pendant l’été 1967 ; George et lui sont rapidement devenus de grands amis, mais leur amitié ne se limite pas à des goûts musicaux communs : très vite, Clapton tombe à son tour amoureux de Pattie. Non partagée à l’époque, cette passion deviendra le thème de Layla, un prénom suggéré à Clapton par la lecture d’un livre persan, The Story of Leïla and Majnun du poète Nizami, qui raconte l’amour passionné d’un homme pour une femme mariée

La suite de la carrière du groupe est cependant nettement moins brillante : ravagé par la nouvelle de la mort de Jimi Hendrix, Clapton commence à augmenter sérieusement sa consommation de drogues et d’alcool. L’accueil mitigé réservé à Layla … n’arrange rien. Pire encore, Duane Allman meurt brutalement d’un accident de moto le 29 octobre 1971, juste avant le début de la tournée américaine de Derek and the Dominos.
Effondré, Clapton passe toute la tournée dans un brouillard permanent de drogue. Il en ressortira pourtant un album live étonnement bon, In Concert. Cela n’empêchera pas le groupe de se désagréger pendant l’enregistrement de son second album, les egos des musiciens étant exacerbés par les drogues.

Les années suivantes, une véritable malédiction semblera poursuivre les anciens Dominos : le bassiste Carl Radle sombre dans l’alcool et la drogue, qui finiront par le tuer en 1981, tandis que le batteur Jim Gordon tue sa mère à coups de marteau lors d’une crise de schizophrénie. Condamné à 14 ans de prison, il fut plus tard placé dans une institution pour malades mentaux, où il vit toujours aujourd’hui.

Au début des années 70, la vie de Clapton devient pour le moins chaotique : la fin tragique de Derek and the Dominos, groupe qui avait pourtant commencé sous les meilleurs auspices, et son amour malheureux pour Patty Boyd plongent le musicien dans la déprime. Il cesse d’enregistrer et d’apparaître publiquement, et se retire dans sa résidence du Surrey. Plus grave, il commet la même erreur tragique que nombre de musiciens de son époque, en cherchant consolation et oubli dans l’héroïne.

Commence une terrible période de dépendance à cette drogue qui le marquera à vie : durant trois ans, Clapton n’enregistre pas, et ne sort de sa retraite qu’à quelques rares occasions comme le concert pour le Bangladesh organisé par George Harrison en août 1971. Le public peut alors avoir un aperçu de l’état de délabrement de sa santé : Clapton s’évanouit sur scène, et doit être réanimé avant de continuer à jouer.

C’est un autre musicien qui l’aidera à sortir de cette spirale infernale : Pete Townshend, guitariste des Who et ami de Clapton fonde un singulier supergroupe (2 ex-membres de Blind Faith, 2 ex-Traffic, plus Ron Wood, Townshend lui même et quelques autres) et pousse Eric à en prendre la tête pour deux concerts au Rainbow Theatre de Londres en janvier 1973. Clapton y apparaît diminué, son jeu abîmé par ses trois années de dépendance, mais il est bien vivant, et Townshend atteint son but : lui montrer qu’il peut encore s’en sortir.

Le concert produit l’effet escompté : Clapton suit ensuite une cure de désintoxication, et parvient à surmonter son addiction à l’héroïne. Mais ses problèmes personnels ne sont pas terminés : s’il est parvenu à se débarrasser de son problème de drogue, il retombe encore régulièrement dans l’alcoolisme, malgré des succès discographique qui s’enchaînent.

Libéré de l’héroïne, ayant entamé une liaison avec Patty Boyd-Harrison (qui finira par l’épouser en 1979), Clapton monte en 1974 un groupe pour enregistrer un nouvel album solo, 461 Ocean Boulevard. Inspiré par son voyage en Jamaïque l’année précédente, au cours duquel il avait rencontré le jeune et encore inconnu Bob Marley, le disque comprend peu de solos de guitare, préférant mettre l’accent sur la qualité des chansons. Il remporte un très grand succès et, grâce à la reprise de I Shot the Sheriff, lance à la fois la carrière internationale de Marley et la vague du Reggae en Occident.

Les années suivantes voient Clapton continuer à sortir des albums, qui se situent musicalement dans la lignée de 461 … plutôt que de Derek and the Dominos : peu de solos et des chansons mieux écrites. Clapton veut dépasser sa réputation de « plus grand guitariste du monde » (le titre original et ironique de l’album There’s one in every crowd de 1975) pour devenir un auteur de chansons reconnu. Mais cette nouvelle tendance n’est pas toujours comprise par le public, et les albums remportent des succès inégaux, le plus réussi, de l’avis des médias comme du public, étant Slowhand, qui contient les tubes Wonderful Tonight (une chanson d’amour inspirée par Patty Boyd) et Cocaine (une reprise du bluesman blanc J.J. Cale).

Mais les ennuis de Clapton ne sont pas terminés pour autant : le musicien continue à boire bien plus que de raison, et en 1976, déclenche une violente polémique en tenant des propos à tendance raciste lors d’un concert à Birmingham.
Considérant le Royaume Uni comme « trop plein », il appelle le public à voter pour le politicien d’extrême droite Enoch Powell, afin d’éviter que le pays ne devienne une « colonie noire ». Ces propos, qui font écho à ceux d’artistes comme David Bowie ou Siouxsie Sioux à la même époque, provoquent un tollé général, et sont sans doute pour beaucoup dans la création du mouvement anglais Rock Against Racism.

Refusant à l’époque de revenir sur ses déclarations, et affirmant (dans une interview à Q Magazine) ne pas voir de contradiction entre elles et son amour pour la musique noire, Clapton finira par les attribuer à son état passablement alcoolisé au moment des faits. « Quand j’ai dit ça, j’étais complètement ivre. Et comme tous les gens ivres, je racontais n’importe quoi. Quel crédit peut-on porter aux propos d’un poivrot ? Moi ce qui m’étonne le plus, ce n’est pas ce que j’ai pu dire, mais c’est d’avoir été capable de jouer ensuite ! ».

D’autre part, de nombreux faits vont contre la thèse d’un Eric Clapton chanteur du racisme : outre les inspirations noires prééminentes dans sa musique, il a partagé la scène à de très nombreuses reprises avec des artistes noirs (Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Robert Cray, et plusieurs membres de son propre groupe de scène), et a eu une liaison avec le top model noir Naomi Campbell.

A la fin des années 1970, l’alcoolisme de Clapton devient critique, et il doit être hospitalisé, puis à suivre une cure à Antigua (il y installera plus tard un centre de désintoxication entièrement financé par lui, le Crossroad Center). Comme pour la plupart des autres musiciens légendaires des années 60, les années 80 ne sont pas la meilleure période de Clapton : les quelques disques qu’il réalise doivent se plier à la mode des synthétiseurs et des boîtes à rythme.
Ce qui n’empêche pas August, sorti en 1986 et produit par Phil Collins, d’être l’un de ses plus grands succès. Il part ensuite pour une tournée de deux ans aux côtés de Collins et remporte des récompenses pour son travail (dont le British Academy Television Award pour … la B.O. de la série Edge of Darkness, diffusée par la BBC en 1985). L’album Journeyman, enregistré en 1989 avec l’aide de pointures comme George Harrison, confirme aux yeux du public la renaissance artistique de Clapton.

Mais, encore une fois, le guitariste n’a guère le temps de profiter de son succès. En 1985, il rencontre Yvonne Khan Kelly, avec qui il a une petite fille, Ruth. Cette liaison, puis celle avec le mannequin italien Lory Del Santo, qui lui donne en 1986 un fils, Conor, mènent à son divorce de Pattie Boyd en 1988.

Puis, deux tragédies majeures affectent Clapton au cours du début des années 1990. Tout d’abord, la mort, le 27 août 1990, du guitariste Stevie Ray Vaughan, alors en tournée avec Clapton. Vaughan se trouve avec deux membres de son équipe dans un hélicoptère qui s’écrase lors d’un trajet entre deux concerts. Clapton est d’autant plus choqué qu’il devait initialement faire partie du vol, avant de laisser sa place à Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Pire encore, le 20 mars 1991, son fils Conor, âgé de quatre ans, meurt brutalement des suites d’une chute du 53e étage, par la fenêtre de l’appartement de Clapton. Effondré, celui-ci racontera ses émotions dans la chanson Tears in Heaven.

En 1991, Eric Clapton pousse son vieil ami, l’ex Beatle George Harrison, à reprendre la route. Ils commencent par une tournée au Japon où Eric et George reprennent les vieux standards de ce dernier. Une tournée européenne est prévue mais avortée. Un enregistrement en public est cependant disponible : Live In Japan.

Mais le véritable grand retour de Clapton sur la scène musicale se fait en 1992 avec l’album Unplugged, où il reprend en public et en acoustique des standards de Blues et ses propres chansons. L’album, qui contient notamment une version de Layla qui deviendra un tube, remporte un immense succès.

Le guitariste confirme ce retour à ses premières amours musicales en 1994 avec l’album From The Cradle, entièrement constitué de reprises de vieux (voire très vieux) morceaux de Blues. Clapton y démontre sa maîtrise hors du commun de tous les styles de Blues à la guitare électrique, et le disque est le plus grand succès commercial de l’année 1994.

Les années suivantes, Clapton partage son temps entre des collaborations avec Carlos Santana et B. B. King, qui remportent un immense succès, et des albums de musique électronique (Retail Therapy en 1997, puis Pilgrim en 1998), qui déchaînent beaucoup moins d’enthousiasme. Sortant régulièrement des nouveaux albums suivis de tournées, le guitariste semble même avoir trouvé un certain bonheur conjugal et domestique auprès de Melia McEnery, qu’il a épousée en 2002.

En 2002, Clapton organise et dirige le Concert for George au Royal Albert Hall de Londres , en hommage à son ami de toujours George Harrison, mort d’un cancer du pancréas un an plus tôt. Le concert réunit notamment Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty et Ravi Shankar.

En 2005, Eric Clapton reforme Cream avec Jack Bruce et Ginger Baker pour une série de concerts qui se tiennent les 2, 3, 5 et 6 mai au Royal Albert Hall de Londres. Les concerts sont enregistrés et font l’objet d’une publication sous forme de DVD et CD à la fin de la même année.

Parmi les albums sortis par Clapton ces dernières années, on remarque entre autres Me & Mr Johnson (2004), disque de reprises du bluesman Robert Johnson, qui est depuis toujours la plus grande influence du guitariste, et sa collaboration récente (novembre 2006) avec la légende du Blues blanc J.J. Cale, The Road to Escondido

Albums Studios

1970 Eric Clapton
1974 461 Ocean Boulevard
1975 There’s One in Every Crowd
1976 No Reason to Cry
1977 Slowhand
1978 Backless
1981 Another Ticket
1983 Money and Cigarettes
1985 Behind the Sun
1986 August
1989 Journeyman
1994 From the Cradle
1998 Pilgrim
2001 Reptile
2004 Me and Mr. Johnson
2004 Sessions for Robert J
2005 Back Home

Filmographie

* 1975 : Tommy de Ken Russel
* 1986 : Otis Rush & friends live in Montreux avec Luther Allison
* 1996 : The Rock and Roll Circus concert de 1968 des Rolling Stones
* 1998 : Blues Brothers 2000 de John Landis


Les Guitares

Eric Clapton reste lié à l’image de guitares mythiques, et en particulier certaines, qui l’accompagnent depuis des années :

* la Fender Telecaster, dans les années Yardbirds
* la Gibson Les Paul, dans les années Bluesbreakers et debut Cream
* la Gibson SG, dans les années Cream
* la Gibson ES-335, également dans les années Cream et qui a fait l’objet d’une série limitée chez Gibson en 2005
* la Fender Stratocaster noire, Blackie, récemment vendue aux enchères chez Christie’s
* la Fender Stratocaster multicolore, Crash 3, également vendue aux enchères
* la Martin 000-42, jouée notamment sur l’album MTV Unplugged

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Although Clapton’s musical style has varied throughout his career, it has always remained rooted in the blues. Clapton is credited as an innovator in several phases of his career, which have included blues-rock (with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds) and psychedelic rock (with Cream).

Clapton has also achieved great chart success in genres ranging from Delta blues (Me and Mr. Johnson) to pop (« Change the World ») and reggae (cover of Bob Marley’s « I Shot the Sheriff »). Clapton also achieved fame with Derek and the Dominos with the song « Layla ».

Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England the son of unwed parents 16-year-old Patricia Molly Clapton and Edward Walter Fryer, a 24-year-old soldier from Montréal. 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, believing they were his parents and that his mother was his older sister. (Their surname was Clapp, which has given rise to the widespread but erroneous belief that Eric’s real name is Clapp.) Years later his mother married another Canadian soldier, moved to Canada and left Eric with his grandparents. When Clapton was 9 years old he discovered this family secret when his mother and 6 year old half-brother returned to England for a visit. The experience became a defining moment in his life. He stopped applying himself at school and became moody and distant from his family.

Clapton grew up quiet, shy, lonely and in his words a « nasty kid ». During his secondary school years he attended the Hollyfield School in Surbiton. His first job was as a postman. At 13, Clapton received an acoustic Spanish Hoya guitar, as well as a marimba, for his birthday, but he found learning the instruments so difficult he nearly gave up. Influenced by the blues from an early age, he practiced for hours on end, struggling to learn chords and trying to copy the exact sounds of black blues artists such as Big Bill Broonzy that he had on his little Grundig Cub tape recorder.

After leaving school Clapton completed a one-year foundation art course in 1962 at the Kingston College of Art but he did not go on to undertake an art degree. Around this time Clapton began busking around Kingston, Richmond and the West End of London. Clapton joined his first band at 17 and stayed with this band – the early British R&B outfit The Roosters – from January through to August 1963. Clapton did a seven-gig stint with Casey Jones and the Engineers in October 1963.

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The Yardbirds & the Bluesbreakers

Clapton joined The Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band in 1963 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.[8] 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, recorded in December 1963, was issued belatedly under both their names in 1965. In March 1965, just as Clapton left the band, the Yardbirds had their first major hit, on which Clapton played guitar: « For Your Love. »

It was during his time with the Yardbirds that Clapton acquired the nickname « Slowhand ». Whenever he broke a guitar string on stage he would immediately replace it himself; British audiences would respond with slow hand claps until he was finished and ready to play again. Inspired by this, and also in ironic reference to Clapton’s ‘fast’ playing, the Yardbirds’ manager Giorgio Gomelsky christened him « Slowhand » Clapton.

Still obstinately dedicated to blues music, Clapton was strongly offended by the Yardbirds’ new pop-oriented direction, partly because « For Your Love » had been written by pop songwriter-for-hire Graham Gouldman, who had also written hits for teen pop outfit Herman’s Hermits and harmony pop band The Hollies. Clapton 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 rare blues album Guitar Boogie, but not all on the same tracks.

Clapton joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in April 1965.His passionate playing in nightclubs — and on the immensely influential album, Blues Breakers — established Clapton’s name worldwide as a blues guitarist. With his 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar and Marshall amplifier, Clapton’s playing by then had 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 graffito was captured in a now-famous photograph, in which a dog is urinating on the wall. Clapton is well reported to have been embarrassed by the slogan, saying in The South Bank Show profile of him made 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. » Contrary to a popular myth (perpetuated by, amongst others, the South Bank Show programme itself), « Clapton is God » slogans did not appear all over the place but only on that wall.

Cream

Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in July, 1966 (to be replaced by Peter Green) and then formed Cream, one of the earliest supergroups. Cream was also one of the earliest « power trios », 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 GBO). Before the formation of Cream, Clapton was all but unknown 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 and songwriter, as well as 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 in Manchester on 29 July 1966 before their full debut two nights later at the National Jazz and Blues Festival in Windsor. Cream established an enduring legend on the high-volume blues jamming and extended solos of their live shows, while their studio work was focused on shorter versions of the same songs.

In early 1967, Clapton’s status as Britain’s top guitarist was rivalled by the emergence of Jimi Hendrix. 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 shattering double-timed version of « Killing Floor ». Top UK stars including Clapton, Pete Townshend, 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.

It was with Cream that Clapton first visited the USA. They went to New York in March 1967 for a nine show stand at the RKO Theater. They returned to New York to record Disraeli Gears May 11-15, 1967.

Cream’s repertoire varied from soulful pop (« I Feel Free ») to lengthy blues-based instrumental jams (« Spoonful ») and featured Clapton’s searing guitar lines, Bruce’s soaring vocals and prominent, fluid bass playing, and Baker’s powerful, polyrhythmic jazz-influenced drumming.

In a mere twenty-eight months Cream had immense commercial success, selling millions of records and playing to standing-room only crowds throughout the U.S. and Europe. They redefined the instrumentalist’s role in rock and were one of the first bands to emphasise musical virtuosity, skill and flash. 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 « Crossroad Blues. »

Although Cream was hailed as one of the greatest groups of its day, and the adulation of Clapton as guitar hero reached new heights, the band was destined to be short-lived. The legendary infighting between Bruce and Baker and growing tensions among all three members eventually led to Cream’s demise. Another significant factor was a strongly critical Rolling Stone review of a concert of the group’s second headlining U.S. tour, which affected Clapton profoundly. By this time he had also fallen deeply under the spell of the music of The Band after they had released the album Music from Big Pink and began to believe that rock music was heading in a new direction. He was so infatuated with them that he even asked to join them, but was turned down.

Cream’s farewell album, Goodbye, featured live performances recorded live at The Forum, Los Angeles, 19 October 1968, and it was released shortly after Cream disbanded in 1968; it also featured the studio single « Badge », co-written by Clapton and George Harrison, whom he had met and become friends with after the Beatles had 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. By all accounts the presence of an outsider, especially of Clapton’s calibre, had the effect of bringing peace to the disharmonious band. In the same year of release as the White Album, Harrison released his solo debut Wonderwall Music that became the first of many Harrison solo records to feature Clapton on guitar, who would go largely uncredited due to contractual restraints. The pair would often play live together as each other’s guests. A year after Harrison’s death in 2001, Clapton helped organize the tribute concert, for which he was musical director.

Since their 1968 breakup, Cream briefly reunited in 1993 to perform at the ceremony inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A full-scale reunion of the legendary trio took place in May 2005, with Clapton, Bruce and Baker playing 4 sold-out concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall (the scene of their 1968 farewell shows) and 3 more at New York’s Madison Square Garden that October. Recordings from the London shows were released on CD and DVD in September 2005.

Blind Faith & Delaney and Bonnie and Friends

A desultory spell in a second supergroup, the short-lived Blind Faith (1969), which was composed of Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood of Traffic and Ric Grech of Family, resulted in one LP and one arena-circuit tour. The supergroup debuted before 100,000 fans in London’s Hyde Park on 7 June 1969, and began a sold-out American tour in July before its one and only album had been released. The LP Blind Faith was recorded in such haste that side two consisted of just two songs, one of them a 15 minute jam entitled « Do What You Like ». Nevertheless, Blind Faith did include two classics: Winwood’s « Can’t Find My Way Home » and Clapton’s « Presence of the Lord ». The album’s jacket image of a topless pubescent girl was deemed controversial in the U.S. and was replaced by a photograph of the band. Blind Faith dissolved after only a year together, and while Winwood returned to Traffic, by now Clapton was tired of both the spotlight and the hype that had surrounded Cream and Blind Faith, and wanted to make music that more closely resembled that of The Band.

Clapton decided to step into the background for a time, touring as a sideman with the American group Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. He moved to New York in late 1969 and worked with the band through early 1970. He became close friends with Delaney Bramlett, who encouraged him in his singing and writing, which would show determined growth in his next effort.

Using the Bramletts’ backing group and an all-star cast of session players (including Leon Russell and Stephen Stills, on whose solo albums Clapton played), he released his first solo album in 1970, fittingly named Eric Clapton, which included the Bramlett composition, « Bottle Of Red Wine », and one of Clapton’s best songs from this period, « Let It Rain ». It also yielded an unexpected U.S. #18 hit, J. J. Cale’s « After Midnight ».

Clapton’s « between-bands » period from 1969 to 1970 also saw him appear on a large number of other artists’ records, ranging from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass (for contractual reasons, Clapton’s contributions went unaccredited for decades) to The Plastic Ono Band’s Live Peace in Toronto 1969 and Dr John’s Sun Moon and Herbs.

Derek and the Dominos

Taking over Delaney & Bonnie’s rhythm section — Bobby Whitlock (keyboards, vocals), Carl Radle (bass) and Jim Gordon (drums) — Clapton formed a new band which was similarly intended to counteract the ‘star’ cult that had grown up around him and display Clapton as an equal member of a fully-fledged group. The band was unnamed early on simply called « Eric Clapton and Friends » with its final name, Derek and the Dominos, an accident, by all accounts. Whitlock claims the previous performer, Tony Ashton of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke mispronounced their provisional name of « Eric and the Dynamos » as Derek and the Dominos. While in Clapton’s biography a different story emerges claiming Ashton told Clapton to call the band « Del and the Dominos », Del being his nickname for Clapton. Del and Eric were combined and the final name became « Derek and the Dominos. »

Clapton’s close friendship with George Harrison had 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, most notably the hit single « Layla », inspired by the classical Persian poet Nezami Ganjavi’s « The Story of Layli and Majnun », a copy of which his friend Ian Dallas had given him. 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 couldn’t marry her. Clapton found a strong similarity between the situation of Layla and Majnun and the one between him and Boyd-Harrison.

Working at Criteria Studios in Miami with legendary Atlantic Records producer Tom Dowd, who had worked with Clapton back in the days of Cream, the band recorded a brilliant double-album, which is now widely regarded as Clapton’s masterpiece. 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 elegiac 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 — who previously knew each other only by reputation — met backstage after the show, and then both bands retired to the studio to jam. Actually they met first onstage as Duane stopped playing in mid-solo only to discover Clapton sitting right in front of him. Clapton and Allman played all night and became instant friends, and Allman was immediately invited to become the fifth member of The Dominos. (These studio jams were eventually released as part of the 3-CD 20th-anniversary edition of the Layla album.)

When Allman and Clapton met, The Dominos had barely started recording anything. Duane first added his slide guitar to « Tell the Truth » on August 28th as well as « Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. » In a window of only four days, the five-piece Dominos recorded « Key to the Highway, » « Have You Ever Loved a Woman, » and « Why Does Love Got to be So Sad. » When September came around, Duane briefly left the sessions for gigs with his own band. In the two days he was absent, the four-piece Dominos recorded « I Looked Away, » « Bell Bottom Blues, » and « Keep on Growing. » Duane returned on the 3rd to record « I am Yours, » « Anyday, » and « It’s Too Late. » On the 9th, they recorded Hendrix’s « Little Wing » and the title track. The following day, the final track, « Thorn Tree in the Garden » was recorded.

The album was heavily blues-influenced and featured a winning combination of the twin guitars of Allman and Clapton, with Allman’s incendiary slide-guitar a key ingredient of the sound. Many critics would later notice that Clapton played best when in a band composed of dual guitars; working with another guitarist kept him from getting « sloppy and lazy and this was undeniably the case with Duane Allman. » It showcased some of Clapton’s strongest material to date, as well as arguably some of his best guitar playing, with Whitlock also contributing several superb numbers, and his powerful, soul-influenced voice.

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 blistering version of « Little Wing » as a tribute to him which was added to the album. Also, on Sept. 17, 1970, one day before Hendrix’s death, Clapton had purchased a left-handed Stratocaster that he had planned to give to Hendrix as a birthday gift. One year later, on the eve of the group’s first American tour, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident. Adding to Clapton’s woes, the Layla album received only lukewarm reviews upon release; Clapton took this personally, accelerating his spiral into drug addiction and depression.

The shaken group undertook a US tour. Despite Clapton’s later admission that the tour took place amidst a veritable blizzard of drugs and alcohol, it resulted in the surprisingly strong live double album In Concert. But Derek and the Dominos disintegrated messily in London just as they commenced recording for their second LP in 1971, without Duane Allman. Several tracks were recorded (five of which were released on the Eric Clapton box-set Crossroads), but the results were mediocre with a distinct lack of Bobby Whitlock’s influence (he does not even appear on « Got To Get Better In A Little While, » which had become a live favorite during their tour.) Although Radle would be Clapton’s bass player until the summer of 1979 (Radle died in May 1980 from the effects of alcohol and narcotics), the split between Clapton and Whitlock was apparently a bitter one, and it wasn’t until 2003 before they worked together again (Clapton guested on Whitlock’s appearance on the Later with Jools Holland show, playing and singing « Bell Bottom Blues », available on a « Later with Jools » DVD).

Another tragic footnote to the Dominos story was the fate of drummer Jim Gordon, who was an undiagnosed schizophrenic who some years later during a psychotic episode murdered his mother and was confined to 16 years to life imprisonment. Gordon was moved to a mental institution after several years, where he remains today.

Solo career

Clapton’s career successes were in stark contrast to his personal life, in a chaotic mess by late 1971. In addition to his (temporarily) unrequited and intense romantic longing for Pattie Boyd, he withdrew from recording and touring to isolation in his Surrey, England residence. There he nursed his heroin addiction, resulting in a career hiatus interrupted only by the Concert for Bangladesh in August of 1971 (where he passed out on stage, was revived, and continued the show).
In January of 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 for the fact that 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 free of 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 (in 1975) Marcy Levy (later better known as Marcella Detroit of 1980s pop duo Shakespear’s Sister). With this band Clapton recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974), an album with the 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 the trend of 461. 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 missed. (Clapton’s own original cover artwork, a self-portrait of a miserable-looking character with a pint glass, was relegated to innersleeve status and replaced by a photograph of Clapton’s dog Jeep, apparently with its muzzle on a coffin.) The band toured the world and subsequently released the 1975 live LP, E.C. Was Here.

In 1976, Clapton appeared at The Band’s farewell concert on 26 November. It was the second farewell concert Clapton had played on that date; eight years earlier, he had played Cream’s farewell concert in London. Ironically, it was partially because of The Band’s music that Clapton had decided to leave Cream in the first place.

Clapton continued to release albums and toured regularly. Highlights of the era include No Reason to Cry, whose collaborators included Bob Dylan and The Band, and Slowhand, which featured « Wonderful Tonight », another song inspired by Pattie Boyd, and a second J.J. Cale cover, « Cocaine », which has since become a rock staple.

Controversy

On August 5, 1976, Clapton was placed the centre of controversy when he spoke out against increasing immigration during a concert in Birmingham. Visibly intoxicated, he remarked that England had « become overcrowded » and told the audience to « Stop Britain from becoming a black colony ». He said, « I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. » Clapton also voiced his support of controversial political candidate Enoch Powell. These comments, along with equally controversial remarks and actions by David Bowie led to the creation of the Rock Against Racism movement in the UK.

Clapton later explained that he felt angry since an « Arab » had felt his wife’s bottom. He stated in a 1978 interview that he had « rabbited on about nothing ». He stated that « what started it, was the upsurge in London of Arab money-spending and their lack of respect for other people’s money. « How much is Hyde Park? » and all that, and for some reason it all came pouring out of me that night ». In a 2004 interview with Uncut magazine, Clapton called Enoch Powell « outrageously brave ». He also stated that « My feeling about this has not changed really. We have always been up to some funny business in this country, inviting people in as cheap labour and then putting them in ghettos. »

Clapton has also stated that « There’s no way I could be a racist. It would make no sense ». In his autobiography, he called himself « deliberately oblivious to it all » and wrote, « I had never really understood or been directly affected by racial conflict… when I listened to music, I was disinterested in where the players came from or what colour their skin was. »

In the late 1980s Clapton added four black musicians to his band: bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, drummer Steve Ferrone and backing singer Katie Kissoon. Whilst Clapton had previously played and recorded with many black musicians including Buddy Guy, BB King and Robert Cray and had also appeared alongside performers of varying ethnicities at collaborative events such as The Concert for Bangla Desh, this was the first time Clapton had been in a band in which the official members were not all white. Defenders of Clapton’s claim not to be racist also point out that he has dated Afro-Caribbean supermodel Naomi Campbell, and has had a home on the Caribbean island of Antigua for many years.

Comeback

The late 1970s saw Clapton struggle to come to terms with the changes in popular music, and a relapse into alcoholism that eventually saw him hospitalised and then spending a period of convalescence on Antigua, where he would later support the creation of a drugs and alcohol rehabilitation centre, The Crossroads Centre.

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 of the show. The performances heralded a return to form and prominence for Clapton in the new decade.

In 1984, he performed on Pink Floyd member Roger Waters’s 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, and in 2005 they performed together for the Tsunami Relief Fund and on May 20, 2006 performed with Waters at the Highclere Castle, in aid of the Countryside Alliance, playing two set pieces of « Wish You Were Here » and « Comfortably Numb ».

As Clapton came back 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, a polished release suffused with Collins’s trademark drum/horn sound, became Clapton’s biggest seller in the UK to date and matched his highest chart position, number 3. The album’s first track, the hit « It’s In The Way That You Use It », was also 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 at his angry best.

The period kicked off Clapton’s extensive two-year period of touring with Collins and their August collaborates, bassist Nathan East and keyboard player/songwriter Greg Phillinganes. Despite his own earlier battles with the bottle, Clapton also remade « After Midnight » as a single and a promotional track for the Michelob beer brand produced by Anheuser-Busch, which had also marketed earlier songs by Collins and Steve Winwood.

Clapton won more plaudits and a British Academy Television Award for his collaboration with Michael Kamen on the score for the critically-acclaimed 1985 BBC television thriller serial Edge of Darkness.

Clapton also worked on the music for the « Lethal Weapon » motion picture series alongside Michael Kamen and David Sanborn[citation needed].

Many factors influenced Clapton’s comeback, including his « deepening commitment to Christianity », to which he had converted prior to his heroin addiction.

In 1989, Clapton’s commercial and artistic resurgence finally came full circle with Journeyman, which featured songs in a wide range of styles from blues to jazz, soul and pop and collaborators including George Harrison, Phil Collins, Daryl Hall, Chaka Khan, Mick Jones, David Sanborn and Robert Cray.

Tragedy again

In 1984, while still married to Pattie Boyd, Clapton began a year-long relationship with Yvonne Kelly; they had a daughter, Ruth, born in January 1985. Clapton and Kelly did not make any public announcement about the birth of their daughter, and she was not publicly revealed as his child until 1991, at the funeral of his son Conor. Boyd did not know of the existence of Ruth until 1991: « What cut deepest was that Eric had known about the child all along. While declaring undying love to me and pleading with me to go back to him, he had been paying Yvonne maintenance for the past six years. »

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 the myth of Eric’s secret daughter was born as a result of newspaper articles published at the time.

Clapton and Boyd divorced in 1989 following his affair with Italian model Lory Del Santo, who gave birth to their son Conor in August 1986. Boyd herself was never able to conceive children, despite attempts at in vitro fertilization. Their divorce was granted in 1989 on grounds of « infidelity and unreasonable behaviour. »

The early 1990s saw tragedy enter Clapton’s life again on two occasions. On 27 August 1990 guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was touring with Clapton, and two members of their road crew were killed in a helicopter crash between concerts.
Then, on 20 March 1991 at 11:00AM, Conor, who was four years of age, died when he fell from the 53rd-story window of his mother’s friend’s New York City apartment, landing on the roof of an adjacent four-story building. Clapton’s grief was expressed in the song « Tears in Heaven » (on the soundtrack to the 1991 movie Rush), co-written with Will Jennings, which, like the Unplugged album that followed it, won a Grammy award.

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Slowhand re-emerging

While Unplugged featured Clapton playing acoustic guitar, his 1994 album From the Cradle contains new versions of old blues standards highlighted by fine electric guitar playing. This album showed that Clapton could still play great blues music along the more mainstream music featured in his other records.

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 a 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 brand new material for almost a decade.[41] Clapton finished the twentieth century with critically-acclaimed collaborations with Carlos Santana and B. B. King.

In 1996 Clapton had a relationship with singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow. The couple dated briefly but it is rumoured that Sheryl wrote « My Favorite Mistake » about her relationship with Clapton. They remain friends currently.

In 1999 Clapton, then 54, met 23-year-old store clerk Melia McEnery in Los Angeles while working on an album with B.B. King. They met while McEnery was working for Giorgio Armani. Clapton entered the shop and a coworker told McEnery Eric Clapton had entered the store to which she responded, « Who’s Eric Clapton? ». They married in 2002 at St Mary Magdalen church in Clapton’s birthplace, Ripley, Surrey, and as of 2005 have three daughters, Julie Rose (2001), Ella May (2003), and Sophie Belle (2005). He wrote the song « Three Little Girls, » featured on his 2006 album « The Road to Escondido, » about the contentment he has found in his home life with his wife and daughters.

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 and in November he organised and hosted the The Concert for George at the Royal Albert Hall, a tribute to George Harrison, who had died a year earlier of cancer. The concert featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, and Ravi Shankar, and others.

In 2004, Clapton released two records packed full of covers by legendary Bluesman, Robert Johnson. Me & Mr Johnson. The same year, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Clapton #53 on their list of the « 100 Greatest Artists of All Time ». On this list, he is the second greatest living guitarist (behind B.B. King).

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 on 30 August.

In 2006 it was announced that Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II would join Clapton’s band for his 2006-2007 world tour. Trucks is the third member of the Allman Brothers Band to support Clapton, the second being pianist/keyboardist Chuck Leavell who appeared on the MTV Unplugged album and the 24 Nights performances at the Royal Albert Hall theater of London (RAH) in 1990 and 1991, as well as Clapton’s 1992 US tour.

On 20 May 2006 he performed with Queen drummer Roger Taylor and former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, at the Highclere Castle, in aid of the Countryside Alliance. On 13 August 2006, Clapton made a surprise guest appearance at the Bob Dylan concert in Columbus, Ohio. Though he did not take the stage with Dylan, he played guitar on three songs in Jimmie Vaughan’s opening act.

A collaboration with guitar legend J. J. Cale, titled The Road to Escondido, was released on 7 November 2006. The 14 track CD was produced and recorded by the duo in August 2005 in California.

The rights to Clapton’s official memoirs, to be written by Christopher Simon Sykes and to be published in 2007, were reportedly sold at the 2005 Frankfurt Book Fair for USD $4 million.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Clapton is currently working on an album with Robbie Robertson. Robertson performed with Clapton at the Crossroads Guitar Festival. They played « Who Do You Love? », which Robertson originally did with Ronnie Hawkins, as a member of The Hawks.

Clapton: The Autobiography

Eric Clapton: The Autobiography, was released on October 9, 2007 by The Random House Group[51], includes his own photographs and covers Eric’s life so far. A reading of the autobiography in six parts by actor Bill Nighy will begin broadcasting on BBC Radio 2 on Friday 5 October. It is also available as an audiobook on iTunes.

Awards and honors

* In 1983, Clapton was presented the Silver Clef Award from Princess Michael of Kent for outstanding contribution to British music.

Clapton’s music in film and TV

* Back to the Future (1985) – Heaven Is One Step Away
* The soundtrack of The Color of Money (1986 film) contains « It’s In The Way That You Use It ».
This song was written by Clapton along with Robbie Robertson. It appeared on the movie’s soundtrack before Clapton’s album was released.
* The soundtrack of Lethal Weapon 2 (1988) features Clapton’s version of Bob Dylan’s « Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door ».
* The soundtrack of Goodfellas (1990 film) contains two of his songs: « Layla » (by Derek and the Dominos) and « Sunshine of Your Love » (by Cream).
Curiously, the portion of « Layla » used is not his guitar riff, but Jim Gordon’s piano coda. Cream would also play on the soundtrack of another Martin Scorsese/Robert De Niro/Joe Pesci Mob film, Casino (1995).
* Clapton wrote the score to the film Rush (1991). That film featured Gregg Allman, whose brother, Duane, was a guest musician who helped Clapton record Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
* Clapton contributed to the score of Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) and co-wrote and co-performed the song « It’s Probably Me » with Sting and « Runaway Train » with Elton John.
* The soundtrack of Phenomenon (1996 film) contains « Change the World »
* Lord of War – « Cocaine »
* Starsky & Hutch – « Cocaine »
* Blow – « Strange Brew »
* True Lies – « Sunshine of Your Love »
* School Of Rock – Several songs written and/or performed by Clapton are featured in this movie, among them « Sunshine Of Your Love » and « Cocaine ».
* The Story of Us (1999) – In many parts of this movie, the song « Get Lost » is played.
* Friends (2000) – The One with the Proposal, Part 2, « Wonderful Tonight »
* Friends (2002) – The One Where Rachel Has a Baby, Part Two, « River of Tears »
* Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) – « Pilgrim » and « Why Can’t We Be Friends? »
* Bad News Bears – (2005) – « Cocaine »

Discography

1964 Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds (live)
1964 Five Live Yardbirds (live)
1965 For Your Love
1965 Having a Rave Up
1971 The Yardbirds Featuring Performances by: Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page
1965 Blues Anytime
1966 Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton
1966 What’s Shakin’ (compilation)
1966 Fresh Cream US #39, UK #6 (RIAA: Gold)
1967 Disraeli Gears (RIAA: Platinum) US #4, UK #5
1968 Wheels of Fire (RIAA: Gold) US #1, UK #3
1969 Goodbye (RIAA: Gold) US #2, UK #1
1969 Best of Cream (RIAA: Gold) (compilation) US #3, UK #6
1970 Live Cream (live)
1972 Live Cream Volume II (live)
1972 Heavy Cream (compilation)
1983 Strange Brew (compilation) (RIAA: Platinum)
1995 The Very Best of Cream (compilation) (RIAA: Gold)
1997 Those Were the Days (box set)
2000 20th Century Masters (compilation)
2003 BBC Sessions (compilation)
2005 Cream Gold (compilation)
2005 Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6 2005 (live)
1969 Blind Faith (RIAA: Platinum) US #1, UK #1
1970 On Tour with Eric Clapton (live)
1970 Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (RIAA: Platinum) US #16
1973 In Concert (live) UK #36 (RIAA: Gold)
1990 The Layla Sessions: 20th Anniversary Edition (box set)
1994 Live at the Fillmore (live)


Solo career (1970s-present)

1970 Eric Clapton US #13, UK #17
1974 461 Ocean Boulevard (RIAA:Gold) US #1
1975 There’s One in Every Crowd US #21, UK #15
1976 No Reason to Cry US #15, UK #8
1977 Slowhand (RIAA:3x Platinum) US #2
1978 Backless (RIAA:Platinum) US #8
1981 Another Ticket (RIAA:Gold) US #7, UK #18
1983 Money and Cigarettes US #16, UK #13
1985 Behind the Sun (RIAA:Platinum) US #34, UK #8
1986 August (RIAA:Gold) US #37
1989 Journeyman (RIAA:2x Platinum) US #16
1994 From the Cradle (RIAA:3xPlatinum) US #1
1998 Pilgrim (RIAA:Platinum) US #4, UK #6
2001 Reptile (RIAA:Gold) US #5
2004 Me and Mr. Johnson (RIAA:Gold) US #6
2004 Sessions for Robert J (CD and DVD package) US #172
2005 Back Home (RIAA:Gold) US #13

live albums

1973 Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert
1975 E.C. Was Here
1980 Just One Night (RIAA:Gold)
1991 24 Nights (RIAA:Gold)
1992 Unplugged (RIAA:10x Platinum) US #1
1996 Crossroads 2: Live in the Seventies (box set)
2002 One More Car, One More Rider

compilations

1972 The History of Eric Clapton
1972 Eric Clapton at His Best US #87
1973 Clapton
1982 Time Pieces: Best Of Eric Clapton (RIAA:7x Platinum) US #101, UK #20
1984 Backtrackin’
1984 Too Much Monkey Business
1987 The Cream of Eric Clapton (UK)
1988 Crossroads (RIAA: 3x Platinum) (box set)
1995 The Cream of Clapton (US) (RIAA: Platinum)
1999 The Blues (RIAA: Gold)
1999 Clapton Chronicles: The Best of Eric Clapton (RIAA: Platinum)
2004 Eric Clapton & The Yardbirds: The Early Years
2007 Complete Clapton UK #2

Soundtracks, collaborations and guest appearances

with George Harrison
(largely uncredited due to contractual constraints)
1968 The Beatles/White Album (with The Beatles)
1968 Wonderwall Music (soundtrack from the 1968 film, Wonderwall)
1970 All Things Must Pass
1971 The Concert for Bangla Desh (live, with various artists)
1974 Dark Horse
1976 The Best of George Harrison (compilation)
1979 George Harrison
1987 Cloud Nine
1989 Best of Dark Horse 1976-1989 (compilation)
1992 Live in Japan (live)
2003 Concert for George (live, with various artists)
2004 The Dark Horse Years 1976-1992 (box set)

with other artists
1968 Lumpy Gravy (with Frank Zappa)
1969 Live Peace in Toronto 1969 (live, with The Plastic Ono Band)
1970 Stephen Stills (Stephen Stills’ solo debut)
1970 Leon Russell (with Leon Russell)
1976 The Last Waltz (live, with The Band and various artists)
1977 Rough Mix (with Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane)
1984 The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking (Roger Waters’ solo debut)
1986 Live at Montreux 1986 (live, with Otis Rush « and friends »)
1986 Persona (with Liona Boyd)
1989 …But Seriously (with Phil Collins)
1992 The One (with Elton John)
1993 Ten Summoner’s Tales (with Sting)
1997 Retail Therapy (with TDF)
1999 Supernatural (with Santana)
2000 Riding with the King (with B.B. King)
2003 Ringo Rama (with Ringo Starr)
2005 Africa Unite: The Singles Collection (with Bob Marley)
2006 The Road to Escondido (with J. J. Cale)

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