Eric Clapton: A guitar god turns 75


God. The highest of all categories. More is not possible. Whoever describes himself as such is considered megalomaniac. But Eric Clapton isn't like that – or at least not anymore. Today the greatest living blues and rock guitarist in the world is said to have become a very philanthropic contemporary over the decades. A gentle music legend who values ​​collegiality and decency above all else. This man is 75 years old today, March 30th.

Not in "Club 27"

A Methuselah age for one of the music generation, whose morbid geniuses are philosophized: "The best die young!" One of the best who died far too early was the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones. He was 27 when he was found dead in a swimming pool in 1969. Janis Joplin also died at the age of 27 (1970) from an overdose, Jim Morrison (the Doors) at the same age blessed the time (1971).


Eric Clapton seemed to be one of those, too, at least trying hard to get drugs and alcohol. He also shot musically into the stars. At 21, the young man from the southern English county of Surrey was a world star. He had previously played with the legendary Yardbirds, then with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and from 1966 he was Frontman of Cream, the best band in the world at the time.

So he got his nickname "Slowhand"

This milk-bearded Eric Clapton was revered as "God" in London in the 1960s, the mecca of rock music. He owed that to his guitar skills and a stupid accident. A fan had "Clapton is god" painted on a wall of a London house. Actually he wanted to write "Clapton is good", only he had forgotten the second O. No matter, from then on he was the god with the fender guitars.

After the death of Jimi Hendrix in 1970, who for some time outclassed Clapton, he no longer allowed himself to be called "God". Instead, he was called "slow hand". Not really a compliment for a world class guitarist. He comes from Yardbirds times when Eric and his boys often played cover songs at the Crawdaddy Club in Surrey. They were usually only three minutes long. Eric stretched it to five to six minutes, so extended it. Sometimes a guitar string broke in the middle of a piece, then the audience started to clap slowly until the guitarist had opened a new one. This "slow handclap" inspired club owner Giorgio Gomelsky for Eric's nickname "Slowhand".

More than 130 million records sold

The myths quickly paved his way. It starts with his birth in Ripley in the south of England. His father is an otherwise married Canadian soldier who had long been with his wife in Canada when Eric Clapton was born on March 30, 1945. The mother is only 16. The child grows up with grandma and grandpa, believing that it is his parents, he thinks the real mom is an older sister. Only at the age of nine should he learn the truth and gain the knowledge that he is different from the others.

At 17, the highly talented boy gave up his art studies at Kingston University in London and only devoted himself to his guitar. Today he can look back on a unique career. Eric Clapton is a 17-time Grammy winner, and was the only musician to be selected three times in the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". With hits like "Sunshine of your Love", "I feel free", "Crossroads", "Lay Down Sally", "After Midnight", "I shot the Sheriff" or "Cocaine" he became a permanent guest on the charts. Clapton has sold over 130 million records worldwide and its net worth is estimated at over $ 150 million.

He performs with the crème de la crème of rock music and makes music with John Lennon, Keith Richards, Duane Allman, Paul McCartney, Roger Daltrey, Ginger Baker, Chuck Berry, B.B. King, J.J. Cale, Mark Knopfler, Carlos Santana, Pete Townshend or John McLaughlin. With the blues prodigy Steve Winwood, he founded the legendary formation Blind Faith. For the designer Giorgio Armani he wrote the music for his fashion shows and for Tom Cruise the soundtrack for "The Color of Money".

Clapton and the women

For women, Eric Clapton maintains the "one by one" principle. In his autobiography "Mein Leben" (Kiepenheuer & Witsch) he wrote in 2007: As soon as one "was gone, I plunged into a series of one-night stands and behaved outrageously towards every woman I came across".

After countless groupies, he begins a relationship with the American funk and soul singer Betty Davies. Then he spends the best of his best friend George Harrison's wife Pattie Boyd, for whom he writes the world hit "Layla" and whom he marries. Harrison doesn't take that from him anymore and calls him his "husband in law", "husband-in-law". During his marriage to Pattie, he fathered children with Yvonne Kelly and Lory Del Santo. He has an affair with model Carla Bruni, which he loses again to Mick Jagger, followed by an interlude with Sheryl Crow.

Finally, in 1999, he met Melia McEnery, 31 years his junior in the United States, who worked for his friend Giorgio Armani. She asks for an autograph for her uncle – and becomes his second wife and mother of three daughters. Since then calm has returned, sometimes "Slowhand" goes hunting with the wife and shoots wild ducks.

"I don't know how I survived"

The rest is good for the world star, because there were enough troubled, even dark times in his life. The young Clapton "destroyed pharmacies of drugs and drank bottomless", writes the "time". In his autobiography he describes how he goes fishing drunk, falls and breaks his fishing rod. "The two anglers who saw this turned away, embarrassed."

He later told the "Sunday Times" that as a "real alcoholic" he had become violent towards his first wife, Pattie Boyd. Heroin addiction develops in parallel. For years he lived in a "cloud of pink cotton wool". Only several withdrawal treatments and a new kind of electrotherapy put him back on track, Pete Townshend helped him with the musical comeback. "I don't know how I survived," he says in the Classic Rock magazine.

Tragic strokes of fate

As with many extraordinary artists, Eric Clapton's life is blown by a fateful tragedy. Some of his best friends die early: Jimi Hendrix, whose career he promoted, 1970, 1990 exceptional guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan is killed in a helicopter crash. In 1997, fashion designer Gianni Versace was shot and in 2001 ex-Beatle George Harrison died of lung cancer.

The cruelest experience is the death of his son Conor on March 20, 1991. The four-year-old was visiting New York with his mother, the Italian actress Lory del Santo. Both lived in an apartment house on the 53rd floor. The housekeeper had just cleaned the windows and left one of them open to ventilate the room. Through this open window, the child crashed into an adjacent building and was immediately dead. Eric Clapton processed his bottomless grief a year later in the song "Tears in Heaven", which became a moving classic.

Health problems

Almost six decades of rock'n'roll also take their toll on an Eric Clapton. The proximity to its amplifiers and speakers has made him semi-deaf. He suffers from tinnitus and complains of neuropathy, a nerve disorder that feels "like electric shocks moving down my leg," he tells Classic Rock.

But he by no means leads the life of a British gentleman who only collects old cars, art and antiques. Dear God lets "Slowhand" continue to play, even if Corona prevents his current tour "Eric Clapton". The performances in Munich, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf were postponed to 2021. All tickets remain valid for the new dates.