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70 Reasons Why Eric Clapton Is An Icon

Published // 26.Mar.15

LIST COMPILED BY HIS WORLDWIDE FAN BASE!  Eric Clapton, the most admired British Blues and Rock guitarist of his generation, turns 70 on 30 March. Born in 1945 in the tiny country village of Ripley, Surrey, he became a professional musician in 1963 and never looked back. His 50 plus year career has given the world an unbelievable body of great music, memorable riffs, and some of the best live performances ever seen. Yet, for all of his success, he is humble and asserts he’s only the messenger.

In honor of this milestone birthday, Where’s Eric! asked his most ardent fans to tell us why Eric Clapton is an icon with the Top 70 being published on whereseric.com in advance of his big day. An overwhelming number of responses were submitted by email and social media. Many reasons – particularly about his tone and pioneering guitar work – were sited numerous times, although expressed in different words. One thing clearly emerged from all of the comments – Eric Clapton’s name will always be synonymous with the guitar.

To the list, the WE! Team has added songs and albums for illustrative purposes and included links to check out some of them online*. The tracks and albums listed can be listened to on services like YouTube, Spotify, Pandora or similar.

70 REASONS WHY ERIC CLAPTON IS AN ICON

  1. Eric Clapton is the only triple-inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Yardbirds (1992), Cream (1993) and as a solo artist (2000).
  2. Eric Clapton founded Crossroads Centre Antigua in 1997 to help individuals in the Caribbean and around the world recover from alcohol and drug dependencies. To support its work, he sold his most treasured guitars across 3 guitar auctions raising over $12 million for the Crossroads Centre Foundation and organized a concert and four Crossroads Guitar Festivals.
  3. Has kept the blues alive for more than 5 decades.
  4. Eric Clapton’s work with John Mayall’s Blues Breakers established the electric guitar as the sound of rock music.  John Mayall’s Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, recorded when he was 21, is the instruction manual for rock guitar. The thick tone, distinctive vibrato and sustain delivered with biting attack and raw emotion were nothing short of revolutionary upon release in 1966.  In particular, check out “Hideaway,” “Have You Heard” and “Steppin’ Out”.
  5. He introduced mainstream audiences to the blues of Robert Johnson.
  6. The groundbreaking work of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker in Cream changed the direction of popular music, established new standards for musical freedom of expression and set the stage for heavy metal. Check out the albums Live Cream Volume 1, Live Cream Volume 2 and “Sunshine Of Your Love” from the Revolution Club in 1968.
  7. No one else sounds like Eric Clapton. His style and sound is instantly recognizable.
  8. Eric Clapton was a guitar prodigy who invented the lightning attack solo in his late teens. Check out “A Certain Girl” from Five Live Yardbirds or “Louise” from one of EC's early television appearance.
  9. With his 1992 MTV special, Eric Clapton defined the “unplugged” genre of recording artists doing stripped down versions of their songs. The resulting album became the biggest seller of his career.
  10. Eric Clapton has proven time and again that you don’t need a floor full of effects to get fabulous sound and tone. It’s all in the fingers and how you interact with the guitar and amp.
  11. Eric Clapton is a journeyman who has explored multiple genres: blues, rock, pop, jazz, country, orchestral music, standards, trip-hop, techno and R&B. Examples of his diversity can be heard on the television soundtrack Edge of Darkness, “Ruthie” by Legends from Live at Montreux, “How Deep Is The Ocean” from Clapton, “We’re All The Way” from Slowhand. “Blue Rock” from TDF's Retail Therarpy and “Arpan” from The Concert For George.
  12. Eric Clapton is a founding member of the definitive power-trio, Cream, the first super-group, Blind Faith, and Derek and The Dominos. Plus, his 45 year solo career is still going strong.
  13. He manages to be both a musician’s musician and a popular recording artist.
  14. Although an internationally famous star in his own right, Eric Clapton has always liked being “one of the guys in the band”. Check out his work with the Plastic Ono Band, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Derek & The Dominos, and Roger Waters on the Pros & Cons of Hitching album and tour.
  15. Eric Clapton is credited as the first to plug a Gibson Les Paul guitar into a Marshall amp. Many are still trying to nail that tone today.
  16. Eric Clapton’s note choice and touch are unparalleled. When he connects with a song, it’s a very powerful, moving experience. Check out his solo in “Gin House Blues” from Yokohama, Japan (1999) or “Double Trouble” from Live From Madison Square Garden with Steve Winwood.
  17. Eric Clapton grew from being teenage wunderkind into a master musician who can write, sing and make you cry with one note from his guitar.
  18. In the Sixties, he singlehandedly revived the popularity of the Gibson Les Paul and caused it to be put back into production.
  19. In the Seventies, his extensive use of Fender Stratocasters revived the model's popularity.
  20. Eric Clapton wrote the primer on how to use a wah-wah pedal. Listen to the songs “Tales of Brave Ulysses” and “White Room.” Other examples from his catalog are “Presence of the Lord” and “Pretending”.
  21. Eric Clapton’s lead on “Crossroads” from Wheels of Fire is the benchmark for guitar players. Few have truly mastered it.
  22. In 1993, Eric Clapton won 6 Grammy Awards including Record, Album and Song of The Year. Over the course of his career, he has won or shared in 19 Grammy Awards plus picked up a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his work with Cream.
  23. Magic happens when Eric Clapton teams up with other guitarists in the live arena or the studio. Check out the albums The Road to Escondido with J.J. Cale and Riding with the King with BB King. Live examples are “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” with The Allman Brothers Band, All Along The Watchtower with Lenny Kravitz, and the DVDs from his own Crossroads Guitar Festivals and Live From Madison Square Garden with Steve Winwood.
  24. Eric Clapton’s 2007 autobiography, in which he chronicled his addictions and recovery, was inspirational to millions around the world.
  25. Eric Clapton challenged himself musically and stepped out of his comfort zone by going on tour with 4 jazz virtuosos – David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, Steve Gadd and Joe Sample – as “Legends” in 1997. Check out “Put It Where You Want It” and “Snakes” from Live at Montreux.
  26. Eric Clapton’s music is the sound of our human feelings: love, loss, anger, serenity, grief and generosity.
  27. Introduced mainstream audiences to the music of J.J. Cale. Clapton had U.S. hits with both "After Midnight" and "Cocaine".
  28. Eric Clapton pioneered the slow bend with vibrato.
  29. You can hum his guitar solos. 
  30. Despite being an internationally famous artist in his own right, Eric Clapton is one of the most prolific session players of his generation. He has over 200 credits to his name for artists from Aretha to Zucchero.
  31. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970) is one of the defining albums of the classic rock era.
  32. When he covers a song, he makes it his own. Listen to Eric Clapton’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” or “Not Dark Yet”, Ray Charles’ “Hard Times”, JJ Cale’s “Cocaine” and Gary Moore’s “Still Got The Blues”.
  33. Eric Clapton has never been afraid to experiment musically. Give “Sno-god” a listen from his late 90s side-project, TDF.
  34. Was brought in as a “ringer” by George Harrison to nail the solo on The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Despite attempts to make it sound “Beatle-y” it’s undeniably Clapton.
  35. In addition to electric blues, Eric Clapton has also been an advocate of acoustic blues. Check out “Mean Old World” with Duane Allman on Crossroads, “Nobody Knows You When  You’re Down And Out” from Unplugged and “Stones In My Passway” from Sessions For Robert J.
  36. Some of Eric Clapton’s most popular records such as “Tears In Heaven,” “Wonderful Tonight,” barely contain guitar solos.
  37. Eric Clapton is able to express himself by playing a minimum number of notes to maximum effect. One single note can make the hair on the back of one’s head stand up and send shivers down the spine as it’s drenched with feel. He told Rolling Stone in 2001, “I think it’s important to say something powerful and keep it economical”.
  38. Eric Clapton is very generous with his praise and time when sharing the stage with other musicians, giving them a chance to shine. One could almost argue there are times when he overdoes it and doesn’t take enough of the limelight for himself.
  39. Eric Clapton’s music is always honest and always about content, feeling and tone rather than pure technique.
  40. Since he turned professional in 1963, Eric Clapton has played more than 3,000 gigs in 58 countries to over 2 billion people. His live shows are still jaw dropping. Check out “Got My Mojo Working” (Baloise Session 2013).
  41. Eric Clapton has always put art ahead of the chart. Despite this, he has sold more than 80 million albums worldwide, collected numerous chart awards worldwide, including more than 80 Gold, Platinum, Multi-Platinum and Diamond Record Awards in the U.S. alone. His U.K. and European music awards are equally impressive.
  42. Eric Clapton pioneered the use of “Woman Tone”. Cream’s “I Feel Free” is a great example and in 1968, he even explained how to achieve it.
  43. Jim Marshall (founder of Marshall Amplification) has said Eric Clapton is primarily responsible for the combo amplifier being added to the product line in the mid-sixties. He asked to have one built that would fit in the boot of his car but be powerful enough for stage use. The model was later nicknamed "the bluesbreaker" in a nod to Clapton's contribution. NOw, the original is on display in the Marshall Museum.
  44. His personal commitment to sobriety has made him a role model to those battling addiction.
  45. When musicians come together for a cause, Eric Clapton is there. From stepping on stage with George Harrison at The Concert for Bangladesh – the very first rock benefit - to 12.12.12, he has performed at dozens of benefit concerts large and small. Check out his peformance at Music For Montserrat. 
  46. Eric Clapton is a musicologist with an encyclopedic knowledge of the blues, popular music of the last century, and the cutting edge music being recorded today.
  47. John Mayall’s Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton is the epitome of British Blues recordings.
  48. In 1970, Eric Clapton radically changed his guitar tone with his debut solo album, Eric Clapton. He abandonded Gibson guitars and Marshall amps for Fender Stratocasters and amplification. Although his tone became brighter, his phrasing, string bending and vibrato remained an unchanged signature. Give “Let It Rain” from his debut solo album a listen.
  49. Eric Clapton has written or co-written enduring rock anthems, blues, pop songs, gentle ballads and touching love songs. For his efforts, he has been inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
  50. Eric Clapton shared his grief over the loss of his young son with “Tears In Heaven” and helped heal the hearts of millions.
  51. With his guitar, he speaks every language fluently.
  52. Eric Clapton left The Yardbirds when they went pop with "For Your Love" to stay true to the blues. He didn’t sell out at 19 and to this day, maintains his musical integrity by playing what he wants to play.
  53. Eric Clapton is the only artist to have repeated major chart success with blues-only albums like Me and Mr. Johnson, Riding With The King (with BB King) and From The Cradle, which reached number one in 1994.
  54. Unable to read music, Eric Clapton memorized the 30+ minute “Concerto For Electric Guitar and Orchestra” and “Edge of Darkness” then performed them with a symphony orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in 1990 and 1991, along with a selection of his biggest hits.
  55. Eric Clapton has always been a fashion trendsetter – from perms and crew cuts to pink Armani suits, cowboy shirts, worn in jeans with work boots and Versace-designed guitar straps. He’s even tried his hand at jewelry and clothing design.
  56. Both The Beatles and the Rolling Stones considered him as a replacement.
  57. More than 50 years into his career, Eric Clapton still has the ability to surprise his audience and his fan base.
  58. Eric Clapton is famous primarily for his pioneering electric guitar work, but his acoustic playing, slide guitar and Dobro skills are equally impressive. Check out “Love In Vain” from Sessions for Robert J., “Motherless Children” from 461 Ocean Boulevard and “Running on Faith” from Journeyman as examples of these styles.
  59. Despite being famous since 19 years old and his considerable achievements, Eric Clapton remains humble and unassuming.
  60. Fender introduced the Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster in 1988 which recreated the look and feel of his favorite Strat, Blackie. EC suggested an innovation: the addition of modern electronics (active mid-boost / TBX tone control) to fatten the sound. 
  61. Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” on 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974) brought reggae into the mainstream. Incredibly, it’s EC's only U.S. #1 single. Give it a listen
  62. Eric Clapton has inspired people for more than 50 years to learn to play guitar. Many honed their skills by playing along to his records, including famous names like Richie Sambora and John Mayer. David Crosby said “The Beatles made every young boy want to go out and buy a guitar but Eric Clapton made them all want to learn how to play it”. In 2014, Ed Sheeran said that EC inspired him to learn guitar after catching his performance at the Queen’s 2002 Jubilee Concert.
  63. Eric Clapton has built his career around honing his craft and paying respect to his influences. His fame and fortune are a mere byproduct of these firmer foundations.
  64. “White Room” is instantly recognizable by Eric Clapton’s blistering opening note. If you play the game "Name That Tune", everyone gets this song in one note!
  65. If Eric Clapton breaks a string on stage, he plays stuff on 5 strings that few could play on six. Check out “Before You Accuse Me” at Knebworth 1990 around the 2 minute mark.
  66. Eric Clapton has introduced mainstream audiences to emerging talent like Robert Randolph, Doyle Bramhall II, Derek Trucks, and Gary Clark, Jr.
  67. Eric Clapton’s association with Martin Acoustic Guitars is as strong as that with Gibson and Fender electrics. There have been 10 limited edition signature models – more than any other musician so honored - plus a standard Vintage Series EC model has been in continuous production since 1996.
  68. Seven recordings on which he played are on the list “1000 Recordings To Listen To Before You Die:” All Things Must Pass, The Concert For Bangladesh, Blind Faith, Disraeli Gears, Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and The Beatles (The White Album).
  69. With his upcoming 70th Birthday Concerts, Eric Clapton will be the first guitarist to reach 200 solo performances at the Royal Albert Hall and 45 appearances at Madison Square Garden – the most of any U.S. venue.
  70. In May 2015, Eric Clapton will become the first British musician inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tennessee. 

* Included video and audio files may not be available in all regions.

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