In terms of guitar-playing, Eric Clapton is one of the most revered in the history of the craft, and what he did for the proliferation cannot be understated. Despite the fact that he has shown himself to be a somewhat problematic figure on numerous occasions over his career, this does not diminish his creative efforts and his place in the canon of popular culture.
Furthermore, without his work on the six string, guitar-playing would be a completely different landscape to what it is today, another point that cannot be ignored, even if in contemporary times we hate shredding.
Once upon a time, Clapton was the most relevant guitarist on the planet, and through his pioneering licks in the ’60s, he inspired a generation to pick up the guitar and bring us into the future. A friend of Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, back then when they were only starting to make names for themselves, he was already at the top of the pile, dazzling us all with the precision of his left hand and the rhythm of his right.
Notably, Clapton was one of the first white Europeans to study the Delta blues of the early 20th century. Completely enamoured by the work of Robert Johnson et al, he re-wrote the original formula and created something refreshing, providing a bridge between the most rudimentary form of guitar-playing and the multi-faceted leviathan it is today.
Known endearingly by his fans as ‘Slowhand’, the Surrey native is connected to various significant acts. The Yardbirds, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, and the psychedelic supergroup Cream are the main three. He’s played with a host of legends who have augmented his output and vice-versa. Ranging from Ginger Baker to Duane Allman, Clapton has rubbed shoulders with them all, and his resumé speaks for itself.
Even though he’s collaborated with some of the most esteemed musicians of the modern era, given his propensity for going against the grain, it won’t surprise you to heed that Clapton doesn’t believe his contemporaries to be his peers on a musical level. Speaking to Uncut Magazine in 2015, he listed the four musicians he recognises as his peers, and they’re not who you’d expect.
Clapton was asked the question, “Who do you regard as your peers? Are they artists of comparable stature to you who are still out there doing it – Dylan, Neil Young, McCartney, the Stones – or people like Rosenwinkel?”
Clapton replied: “I would acknowledge the people who grew up listening to the same stuff as I did, those are the ones that I would be in tune with. People like Jimmie Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall, Derek Trucks, Robert Cray. Though they’re younger than me, those guys. So people who are more well-versed in blues, that’s who I identify with as my peers.”
“Definitely Jimmie Vaughan, he’s probably at number one, and Robert’s not far behind. These guys have stayed true to their principles all the way through. So commercial success hasn’t really swayed them off the path.”