Eric Clapton is one of my favorite guitarists. He has been for almost as long as I’ve been playing. Most guitarists I know feel the same way. However, I wonder if non-guitarists feel the same way?
Several years ago, I was driving a younger relative around in my car, and I was playing a Clapton CD. When he asked what I was playing, he looked incredulous when I told him it was Clapton. The feeling I got was that he was thinking, “Who still listens to Clapton?”
I wonder if this is a sentiment shared by most younger non-guitarists. Even though Clapton helped shape rock music and holds a significant place in musical history, has he done anything over the past few years, or even the past decade or so, that speaks to the next generation of musicians. Or, is he just a piece of musical history.
In my opinion, Eric Clapton is definitely still relevant. But, my opinion is and always will be clouded by the fact that his music (past and present) has had such an impact on me and my playing. If I didn’t play guitar, I’m not sure I’d feel the same way.
What do you think? Is Eric Clapton still relevant to the next generation of fans?
Oh yeah… EC is relevant. He continues to collaborate with other musicians like Steve Winwood (Live from Madison Square Garden), Paul Jones (Starting All Over Again), Buddy Guy (Skin Deep), David Sanborn (Here and Gone), Sonny Landreth (From the Reach) and Dr. John (City That Care Forgot). In addition to the MSG DVD set, another DVD was released in 2008 titled “The Story of the Yardbirds”. Not to mention the Crossroads Guitar Festival… The 2007 show sold out 28,000 tickets in 22 minutes… I hear another one is coming! Sounds like Eric is still very busy, and I am glad for that! Hey… he is relevant to you and me!
Sans Direction says
Was watching Tom Hess video (look on YouTube) and he said “If you don’t improve a bit, ever, except for vibrato and phrasing, you will be looked upon as a great guitar player.” You could take that as a very inspirational line, but in the next sentence, Tom reveals it as an attack on Clapton.
Which is fine. I admit that the last new recording by Clapton I was even remotely excited about was “Forever Man” in the mid 1980s, and if we’re honest, his reputation is built upon music recorded before 1972. Since then, we’ve had the punk reaction to 1972’s music, the new wave reaction to that music, the hip hop reaction to that music, the metal reaction to that music, the grunge reaction to that music, etc. etc. etc. And while time has moved forward, Eric has been looking backward, back to Robert Johnson.
I will continue to listen to him, but he’s almost a more elegant musician for a more civilized time.
Player of Blues says
I think it depends upon what you mean by relevant. I discovered EC about 17 years ago, right around Tears In Heaven and Unplugged. Of course, I had heard of him before that but the situation that spawned the song captured my attention. My teenage mind couldn’t understand how he could keep functioning after the tragedy much less create that moving tribute. I bought the single and the b side was Tracks and Lines an instrumental also from the Rush soundtrack and while TIH was touching that track resonated with me pretty deeply.
I had been trying to learn to play guitar for about a year with only minor advancement, only getting the cowboy chords down and learning a few strummy Eagles songs. I didn’t really have my own musical tastes, the stuff I listened to was what my parents and older sister listened to; the aforementioned Eagles, Def Leopard and other embarrassing child of the 80’s bands that I won’t go into here (or anywhere else for that matter.) And while I was a massive Beatles fan, it never occurred to me to try and learn any Beatles tunes.
I decided that I would learn Tears In Heaven. It took months of work, and I would never be confused with the original, but I could perform a recognizable rendition. When Unplugged came out, I watched it with my grandfather and discovered that he had, completely unknown to me, a love of country blues. Then I received the Crossroads box set for Christmas and that was it, I was a ravenous fan. While not every track connected, it was a musical education. I realized over time that what mattered to me was tone and technique, not note for note perfection but feeling and passion and improvisation. Is Clapton relevant? In the subject of new players finding a direction, absolutely.
That being said, are his recent studio albums relevant? I would have to say no. While I have purchased every one of them, they don’t bring the same thing as the Beano album, Disraeli Gears, Layla, Slowhand or Journeyman bring to the table. While there are good and great tracks, they don’t teach you anything new about the guitar. His live recordings are a different story but I have taken up a lot of space so I will end with: If you are learning to play, listen to Clapton. Don’t try to learn his solos note for note cause he’ll never play it exactly that way again. Instead, get real familiar with his tone and his vibrato and double-stops then go listen to the three Kings, (B.B., Albert and Freddie), Otis Rush, and Robert Johnson. You will see where it comes from. Then go listen to Stevie Ray and Dwayne Allman and see what others did. Mash ’em all together and squeeze out something that is yours. Its what he did and that lesson makes him forever relevant.
Richard Salit says
Clapton is incredibly relevant. Not only has he influenced rock and blues guitar playing over the past 50 years, he’s been part of several seminal rock bands and written a pile of great songs (which are still covered today). So, his influence can be seen everywhere. Without him, there’s no John Mayer, never would have been a Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Today he may not be as prolific in his song writing but his playing is still stellar. He’s not the center of the pop universe but that’s probably a good thing. Anyone with more than a passing interest in rock should be familiar with his body of work.
I say if you’re a musician or wannabe musician, Clapton is relevant because he offers inspiration to infuse into your own style. If you aren’t a musician, Clapton is still relevant but not nearly to the degree that musicians feel he is
Billy Penn says
Clapton is totally still relevant. His playing continues to mature over time and he still rocks. Young players are influenced by him and make mention of his earlier days with Cream. I think he’s great and totally relevant to me!!!
Wow. I’m surprised, but glad to hear that other people still think Clapton is relevant. His playing is almost an encyclopedia of 20th century rock music.
Uh, yeah. I mean, he’s not going to be putting out yearly albums obviously, but his legacy is undeniable and anyone who plays lead guitar owes something to Clapton. He’s the reason extended guitar solos and jamming on stage became acceptable to the rock audience. Do you realize that the first time a Les Paul had been plugged into a Marshall amplifier was during his album with the Blues Breakers? Guitarists like Slash still use that as the basis of their setup. I’m 15 y/o, and Eric Clapton is the reason I started playing guitar. So yeah, he’s still relevant.
I listen to a lot of new rock\alternative music and I like it, but there is still something about how Clapton plays that can give me chills.
A couple of years ago I was watching a video of him play Bad Love and the solo, it just made time stop it was enthralling…I wanted to learn to play because of him and now I can.
Zac Sullivan says
I get the impression he’s not particularly relevant but he is a big name and students especially love playing “Sunshine of Your Love” for example.
~ Z ~