The Story of Eric Clapton – Slow Hand
Eric Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England on March 30, 1945. His teenage mother was not married to his father, who was a Canadian soldier and returned to the war soon after Eric’s birth. Eric was then raised by his grandparents and believed his mother was his older sister. When his mother married another soldier and relocated to Germany years later, Eric stayed with his grandparents.
He was drawn to blues music at a young age and for his thirteenth birthday received a Hoyer guitar from his grandparents. The acoustic steel-stringed guitar was difficult to learn and use and he nearly gave up trying to learn putting it aside for two years soon after. When he did pick it up again, he began playing in earnest, practicing for long hours, and playing along with records to learn the chords by imitating and mimicking the sounds and tone of his blues guitar idols like Big Bill Broonzy. He often recorded his sessions on a reel-to-reel tape player so he could listen to them until he felt he had it right.
Eric Clapton explains how he creates different sounds and tones (1968)
He attempted to study stained glass design at England’s Kingston College of Art but was dismissed from the program when he remained more focused on music than art. So, he turned to performing in a variety of venues in Kingston, Richmond, and the West End. Eric joined forces with another blues artist, David Brock, and they performed as a duo in Surrey for a while. He was still only 17 when he joined the British R & B group, The Roosters, as their second guitarist and stayed with them until the next year when he joined Casey Jones & The Engineers for a short time. From that point forward, Eric Clapton went on to a sensational musical career as an incredibly talented guitar player, singer, and songwriter.
His versatility is remarkable, with hits in genres from Delta blues, “Me & Mr Johnson”; pop, “Change the World”; and reggae, “I Shot the Sheriff”. Many believe he was nicknamed “Slowhand” for his string-bending blues, licks, and riffs. But, did you know that Eric was “christened” Slowhand by the manager of The band Yardbirds because when he broke a string (he only had one Fender telecaster at the time) he took his time replacing it on stage… and let everyone wait… including the audience?
Eric Clapton has become known as one of the most successful musicians of the 20th century, and is the only three-time inductee into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame; once as a solo artist and then as a member of the band Yardbirds and again as a member of Cream.
One of his most famous songs, “Tears in Heaven” was inspired by the death of his son, Conor, in 1991. Conor’s death came on the heels of his manager, two roadies, and his friend Stevie Ray Vaughn dying in a helicopter accident in 1990.The song was used in the soundtrack for the 1991 film, Rush. “Tears in Heaven” went on to win six Grammy Awards as a solo album. Conor’s death, by falling from the 53rd story window of a New York City Apartment, also led to Eric creating a series of public service announcements aimed at raising awareness of the necessity of childproofing windows and staircases. He had said at the time that music and the song helped him heal from the grief and stopped playing it in 2004, although he did revisit and perform “Tears in Heaven” in 2013 for his 50th anniversary world tour.
Eric Clapton plays – for the first time – Tears In Heaven
Conor was not his only child though, he had one daughter with Yvonne Kelly, named Ruth Kelly Clapton who was born in 1985, a year before Conor. Despite her name, his relationship to Ruth was kept secret until 1991. He also has three daughters with his current wife, Melia McEnery, whom he married in 2002. His daughter Ruth gave birth to a son in 2013, giving Eric a grandson, Isaac Eric Owen Bartlett.
Like many of the artists in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Clapton was drawn into the world of drugs and alcohol and battled the resultant addictions. However, by the time he moved in with Pattie Boyd in 1974, he had kicked his addiction to heroin, although his alcohol use was steadily increasing. He and Pattie married in 1979 but divorced in 1988 following his affair with Conor’s mother and Conor’s birth.
With his love of the instrument demonstrated in his amazing collection of about 750 guitars, Eric Clapton is hailed as one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time. He has become an influence for a number of guitarists in the generations that have followed him and his use of a particular model of guitar often causes an upsurge in the sales and orders for guitars of the same style.
After such a long and storied career, Eric Clapton has also begun to give back by performing for charity concerts, such as the Tsunami Relief Concert in 2005. He has also donated a large number of his guitars and other music memorabilia to various auctions in order to raise money for different charities, including the Crossroads Center he founded in Antigua in 1997 to help others overcome addiction. Cleck here to read more about the “Crossroads Guitar Festival”
As Eric Clapton’s story demonstrates, the life of a professional musician is as challenging as any others but through hard work and perseverance, one can succeed and reach a point at where they can give back.
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