Clapton, Eric Patrick

Clapton, Eric Patrick,

1945–, British guitarist, singer, and songwriter, b. Ripley, Surrey, England. A seminal figure in rock music, he is noted especially for his virtuoso guitar playing, whose style is based on American blues as played by "T-Bone" Walker, B. B. KingKing, B. B.,
1925–2015, African-American blues singer and guitarist, b. near Indianola, Miss., as Riley B. King. He grew up poor in the Mississippi Delta region, began playing the guitar at 12, was a street corner performer as a teenager, and as a young man worked as a
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, Muddy WatersWaters, Muddy,
1915–83, African-American blues singer and guitarist, b. Rolling Fork, Miss., as McKinley Morganfield. As a teenager he began singing and playing traditional country blues on harmonica and guitar, and in 1941 he was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of
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, and particularly Robert JohnsonJohnson, Robert,
1911–38, African-American blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter, b. Hazelhurst, Miss. A sharecropper's son, he grew up absorbing the music of Delta bluesmen, learning the harmonica and then mastering the guitar.
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. Clapton was influential in the development of rock music in the 1960s, playing with the Yardbirds (1963–65), John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (1965–66), Cream (1966–68), Blind Faith (1969), and Derek and the Dominos (1970–71), with whom he first recorded (1970) his signature love song "Layla." His first solo recording, Eric Clapton, featuring the hit "After Midnight," was released in 1970. In seclusion from 1971 while battling alcoholism and heroin addiction, a battle that continued for more than a decade, he resurfaced in 1974 with 461 Oceanside Boulevard, which included a version of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff." In the 1990s he achieved a career comeback with the all-acoustic Unplugged (1992) and the traditional blues of From the Cradle (1994). The death of his son, Conor, in 1991, prompted the song "Tears in Heaven."


See his autobiography (2007).