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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 00:15 GMT
Eric Clapton: Blues guitar legend
Eric Clapton
Clapton is one of the world's most popular rock guitarists
Eric Clapton, one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock music, has been made a CBE in the New Year Honours list.

Clapton has been described as "an authentic musical genius" for his blues-influenced guitar playing and songwriting in a career spanning 40 years.

During that time he has sold millions of albums and known worldwide fame - but also experienced the pain of drug and alcohol addiction and the tragic death of his son.

Born in Ripley, Surrey, on 30 March, 1945, Eric Patrick Clapton began learning the guitar as a result of his love for blues and US R&B in the shape of artists such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.

The blues are what I've turned to, what has given me inspiration and relief in all the trials of my life
Eric Clapton

He became a serious scholar of the blues, learning about its history, listening to legendary exponents such as Robert Johnson and discovering the work songs of the US deep south.

"It did something to me emotionally," he later said of his affinity with practitioners of the blues sound.

"The blues are what I've turned to, what has given me inspiration and relief in all the trials of my life."

After brief spells with various British blues bands in the early 1960s, Clapton rose to public acclaim in 1964 as a member of The Yardbirds, playing lead guitar at London's Marquee club on the band's first album, Five Live Yardbirds.

Eric Clapton
Clapton was devastated by the death of son Conor in 1991
He left two years later, unhappy with their pop direction, just before the single For Your Love brought them international fame.

While The Yardbirds would go on to recruit fellow guitar heroes Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, Clapton had joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and would soon emerge at the heart of one of the late 1960s' most important rock bands, Cream.

Co-founded with bass player Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, Cream combined the era's psychedelic influence with hard-rocking remakes of blues standards such as Crossroads and Born Under A Bad Sign.

Before the decade was over, Clapton and drummer Baker joined multi-instrumentalist Steve Winwood and bassist Ric Grech in the so-called supergroup Blind Faith, recording a number one album that was hailed by critics.

After a spell in Delaney and Bonnie & Friends, Clapton began to test his vocal skills, recording a 1970 solo album and the widely-admired track Layla on an album recorded under the name of Derek and the Dominos.

Throughout the 1970s he enjoyed continued success with a string of solo albums featuring hits such as I Shot the Sheriff and Lay Down Sally.

Eric Clapton
Clapton gave up drugs and alcohol n 1982
During the 1980s and 1990s he went on to even greater renown, recording huge-selling albums such as Just One Night (1980), Journeyman (1989) and 1992's MTV Unplugged, which achieved sales of 15 million.

At the height of his fame Clapton was devastated by the death of his four-year-old son Conor, who fell from the 53rd-storey window of a New York City apartment in 1991. Clapton later recorded the song Tears in Heaven in tribute.

He has acknowledged a drug habit that began at art school at the age of 15. By 1969, he was drinking two bottles of vodka a day, and five years later his heroin addiction was costing him 1,500 a week.

He has been sober since 1982 and now raises millions of dollars for his drink and drugs rehabilitation centre in the Caribbean.

A winner of eight Grammys and the only triple inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Clapton, now 58, married American Melia McEnery, 27, the mother of his daughters Ella and Julie, in Surrey a year ago.

For nine years he was married to Patti Boyd, previously the wife of former Beatle George Harrison and the subject of Layla.

In 1994 he was awarded the OBE for services to music.




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