Birthday: Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton has significantly contributed to rock music through a number of career permutations. In doing so, he has become the only performer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times: as a member of the Yardbirds and Cream, and as a solo act.

Clapton was born Eric Clapp on March 30, 1945, in Ripley, England. After being abandoned by his parents, he was raised by his grandmother. Clapton studied stained-glass design before taking up the guitar when he was 15.

He played in an R&B band and a pop group before joining the Yardbirds in 1963. With that band, Clapton began to establish his virtuoso guitar style in the blues-rock genre.

Clapton then played with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers briefly before forming Cream, the blues-rock power trio that sold more than 15 million records in three years and helped establish the importance of the instrumental solo in rock.

The guitarist started the short-lived group Blind Faith, which also included Steve Winwood, and played in John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band.

Clapton began his solo career in 1970 with an eponymous album featuring the top-20 hit "After Midnight."

The classic Layla and Assorted Other Love Songs(1970) was Clapton's only studio album with Derek and the Dominos. Throughout the rest of the decade and the next, Clapton expanded his solo career to include more mellow, reggae-influenced music such as his #1 cover of "I Shot the Sheriff" (RealAudio excerpt).

Clapton received multiple Grammy Awards for his 1992 LP Unplugged, which included "Tears in Heaven" (RealAudio excerpt), written for his deceased son. His From the Cradle (1994) became the best-selling traditional blues recording in history. His most recent LP is Pilgrim (1998).

Other birthdays Thursday: Graeme Edge (Moody Blues), 59; Jim Dandy (Black Oak Arkansas), 52; Lene Lovich, 51; Dave Ball (Procol Harum), 50; and Joey Castillo (Danzig), 34.