So I forgot that a couple of days ago I was going to prove why Eric Clapton is God. Hard rockin’ chicks distracted me.
Eric Clapton is generally #2 on most greatest guitarist lists, right after Jimi Hendrix (who defies all attempts at human definition. . . which is why I think he’s an alien). Sometimes the polls will put Duane Allman ahead of Clapton (I refuse to argue with that; after all, Clapton’s most famous lick, from “Layla,” was actually Duane’s.) The general consensus is that Eric Clapton is one of the best rock guitarists that has ever, or will ever, live.
But why. Technically and mechanically, he’s really, really good, but he’s not the master that Hendrix or even someone like Jimmy Page is. His solos are excellent, clean and clear, not a single wasted note. Ever. Clapton is the consummate bluesman*; his style is economical without being cheap. As a songwriter and song-adapter, Clapton is more than competent. (I will be the first to admit, however, that his original songwriting has suffered in the last decade or so; happiness does that to a musician.) But there are many, many guitarists that can write a decent tune, many of them better than Clapton. And although I’ve never seen him in concert myself, I’ve seen enough clips to know that his stage presence is kind of static. So what the hell makes him so special?
Well. . . .
This clip is from the tribute Concert for George, performed and recorded exactly a year to the day of George’s death. (For anyone who has spent a long time under a rock: Eric Clapton and George Harrison were very dear, close friends. Eric fell in love with George’s wife Patti Boyd. Patti eventually left George for Eric, although they also divorced some years later. Eric and George remained dear, close friends until George’s death.) If possible, please momentarily discount the magnificent Indian orchestra accompanying Clapton and zero in on him. It’s not flashy; I don’t know if he wrote his own part. All I know is that he puts every ounce of his soul into these moments. You feel all the love and sorrow that he feels, all the joy and gratitude. It moves me to tears every damn time I hear it. No matter what he is playing, Eric Clapton puts his whole self into it. The guitar is not an instrument in his hands. It is his hands. He is the guitar, he is the music.
That’s why Clapton is God.
*A piece of advice must be noted here: be careful what you wish for. As a young adolescent, Clapton wished to be the best bluesman ever. But what he failed to understand is that to play the blues is to live the blues. Between his addictions, romantic entanglements, and the deaths of many loved ones, Clapton has lived through more tragedy than most of us will ever know. But he is one of the best bluesmen ever.