Saturday, March 30, 2013

Influences and Inspirations: Eric Clapton

March 30: Happy birthday Eric Clapton!

It was this live version of Cream playing "Crossroads" that really drew my attention to EC.  Being a teenager into hard rock, I was blown away by that performance, and consequently mystified as to why he would ever choose to leave that sound and that hard driving style behind.  But really, when you are Eric Clapton, and by 1970 your résumé already includes the Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, a guest shot with the Beatles on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie, and Derek and the Dominos, can you top that? And with your reputation already firmly in place as a guitar legend, what have you got to prove?

Perhaps that's what he was thinking, and perhaps he concluded he no longer needed to prove anything, at least not to guitar players. So he became, as Rolling Stone put it, "a dependable hit maker" with an "easy-going commercial style," and achieved massive mainstream success. No arguing with that. But as years go by I have come to appreciate his diversity, and accepted his right to be radio-friendly when he chooses to; and I have come to treasure the blues roots that are always audible.

We should all be grateful to EC for starting up what has become one of the greatest music festivals around, the Crossroads Guitar Festival, in which he generously gives the limelight to other guitar players. I look forward every time a new one is announced, to another amazing lineup of some of the greatest guitarists in the world, some known and some unknown, delivering some of the most exciting yet relaxed performances, spontaneous musical collaborations, and obviously having enormous amounts of fun.

Here's one of my favorites from Clapton's more recent output. Wonderful song, superb production. EC's voice in fine form, and busting out some choice blues licks on his acoustic. Life is good.

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