Eric Patrick Clapton CBE was born on 30 March 1945 in Ripley, Surrey. On his thirteenth birthday, he received an acoustic Hoyer guitar, but the inexpensive steel-stringed instrument was difficult to play and he briefly lost interest. After two years he picked it up again and started playing consistently. In October 1963, Clapton joined the Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band, and stayed with them until March 1965. The band just had their first major hit ‘For your love’, prompting them to pursue a more pop-oriented sound, much to the frustration of Clapton. He briefly joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, recording one album which was released in 1966. During his second Bluesbreakers stint, Clapton gained a reputation as the best blues guitarist on the club circuit.
In 1966, Clapton joined the band Cream with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce, in which Clapton played sustained blues improvisations and “arty, blues-based psychedelic pop”. Furthermore, he formed blues rock band Blind Faith with Baker, Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech. 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 with Derek and the Dominos; and Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’, recorded with Cream.
Clapton’s career successes in the 1970s were in stark contrast with the struggles he coped with in his personal life, which was troubled by romantic longings and drug and alcohol addiction. He withdrew from recording and touring to isolation in his Surrey residence, where he nursed a heroin addiction, which resulted in a lengthy career hiatus interrupted only by the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971 (where he passed out on stage, was revived, and managed to finish his performance).
In the early 1980’s, Clapton checked in at Hazelden Treatment Center to kick his alcohol addiction, then proceeded to record music again as a solo artist, continuing to release new albums roughly every three years until now. Following the death of his son Conor in 1991, Clapton’s grief was expressed in the song ‘Tears in Heaven’, which became one of his signature songs. In 1993, Eric Clapton played guitar on Kate’s song And So Is Love.
Clapton has been the recipient of 18 Grammy Awards, and the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. In 2004 he was awarded a CBE at Buckingham Palace for services to music.