Eric Clapton

Today is the 53rd birthday of legendary guitarist Eric Clapton, a man whose
blues-guitar mastery has fueled rock classics by the Yardbirds, Cream and
Derek and the Dominoes, as well as his own solo material. Born Eric Clapp
in Ripley, England, he was raised by his grandparents after being abandoned
by his mother. Clapton’s first gigs came in 1963 with a little-known band
called the Roosters; later that year, he joined the Yardbirds and stayed
with them until 1965. Leaving the Yardbirds once they began to abandon
their blues-based sound, Clapton worked for a while as a construction worker
before joining John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and then hooking up with bassist
Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker to form Cream. The group was a perfect
meld of blues and rock, recording such classics as “White Room” and
“Sunshine of Your Love.” Cream disbanded in 1968, and Clapton released
his first solo album in 1970, highlighting not only his phenomenal skills as a
guitarist but his strong singing voice. He formed Derek and the Dominoes
that same year, taking the frontman position and scoring a huge hit with
the song “Layla,” inspired by the then-wife of Beatle George Harrison,
Pattie Boyd, whom Clapton later married.

After the death of several close friends in the early 1970s, Clapton turned to
drugs to console himself, eventually supporting a heavy heroin habit, from
which he finally emerged in 1973. He began making more solo records, which
included popular hits such as “Lay Down Sally” and “Wonderful Tonight.” In
1985, he separated from Boyd and entered rehab for his alcoholism; in 1986 he
had a child, Conor, with Italian actress Lori Del Santo. While Clapton’s career
continued to soar, his personal life was beset with tragedy: In 1990, two
members of his crew were killed in a helicopter crash along with guitarist Stevie
Ray Vaughan, and in 1991, Conor fell to his death from a 50-story window in
Santo’s Manhattan, N.Y., apartment. Clapton’s song “Tears in Heaven” was
inspired by the loss of his only child. Clapton returned to
music after a short period of seclusion, including an appearance on MTV’s
“Unplugged” in 1992 and the release of From The Cradle in 1994.
Clapton recently won a Grammy along with producer Babyface for their hit
single “Change the World.” Earlier this month, Clapton released
Pilgrim, an album that he will support by touring with a full band
and an orchestra.

Other birthdays: Graeme Edge (Moody Blues), 57; Jim Dandy (Black Oak
Arkansas), 50; Lene Lovich, 49; Dave Ball (Procol Harum), 48; Hammer, 35;
Celine Dion, 30; and Joey Castillo (Danzig), 28.