E.C. Listening: Eric Clapton's 50 Greatest Guitar Moments
Clapton at 70: The 50 greatest guitar moments of Eric Clapton's five-decade career.
Guitar World celebrates the 50 greatest guitar moments of Eric Clapton's five-decade career—from the Yardbirds to Cream to Derek and the Dominos and beyond.
There was a time when the name Eric Clapton meant one thing and one thing only: guitar god.
His incendiary six-string exploits with the Yardbirds, followed by a pair of mind-blowing 1966 albums—Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton and Fresh Cream—briefly put the passionate young Clapton atop the U.K.’s, if not the world’s, guitar hierarchy.
By the late Sixties, he was sharing the spotlight with such rock deities as Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. Significantly perhaps, it was around this time that Clapton began incrementally distancing himself from the flashy, lengthy solos of his wild youth, as he segued from Cream to Blind Faith, and then from Derek and the Dominos to a successful solo career.
He eventually fell under the mellow spell of J.J. Cale and the Band, put more emphasis on singing and songwriting, and dabbled in country rock, reggae, acoustic music and ultra-slick pop tunes.
Today, Clapton, who turns 70 on March 30, enjoys an enviable spot as one of the most respected elder statesmen in rock and blues. And although he happily handed over the guitar-god mantle decades ago, he’s not averse to melting a few faces when the opportunity arises.
Guitar World looks back at Clapton’s 50-plus-year career and pinpoints what we consider to be the 50 greatest guitar moments—thus far. Our list digs deep into his six-string artistry, putting the emphasis on the playing and not necessarily the hits. We hope you enjoy this guide to Clapton’s cream of the crop.
Honorable Mention: "Go Back Home"
Stephen Stills—Stephen Stills (1970)
Let's start things off with an honorable mention—a suggestion from several readers (and we happen to approve of their choice). It's a track from Stephen Stills' self-titled debut album from 1970. It features Clapton in all his 1970 pointy-Strat-sound glory!
Eric Clapton—Slowhand (1977)
While Clapton was certainly no stranger to the song’s titular substance, “Cocaine” was actually written by American singer/songwriter and frequent Clapton collaborator J.J. Cale. The infectious main riff, in E, is a bit reminiscent of that other Clapton classic “Sunshine of Your Love” and provides an equally amiable vehicle for some tasty soloing on Clapton’s part.
His approach is understated and funky but with occasional flashes of fire. A second overdubbed solo improvisation joins the main line midway through, and Clapton adorns the outro with some more Strat leads. Despite the enduring appeal of “Cocaine” as a party song, Clapton has claimed it is actually an anti-drug number.
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