The three guitarists who inspired Eric Clapton

Whether you like him or not, Eric Clapton is undeniably one of the most recognizable guitarists in music history. The Surrey native’s vast body of work, whether it is as a solo artist, member of Cream, or with The Yardbirds, attests to his high profile.

Of course, it is hard to overlook the notorious racist outburst that Eric Clapton made in 1976, when the inebriated rock star endorsed Enoch Powell’s ethnonationalist sentiments. This outburst, which is rife with hate, deplorable remarks, and obscenities, presents a very different image of the former hippy who is so dependent on African-American music. It raises doubts about what is truly going through his mind, especially in light of other deplorable remarks he has made in the past.

In actuality, though, Clapton’s groundbreaking musical endeavors have prevented him from being relegated to the annals of history. He’s greatly influenced blues rock, psychedelic music, and virtuoso playing. This is also true of how deeply the blues-influenced Western society and shifted the course of popular music.

The lead guitar on several famous songs, like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by The Beatles, “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream, and “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos, is a testament to Clapton’s unique and emotive approach. He has always been transparent about his wide range of inspirations, most of which are from the blues genre.

In a 2016 interview with Classic Rock, Clapton highlighted how closely his life narrative is linked to the blues legends by naming the three guitarists that had the biggest influence on him in his formative years. These were three of the greatest blues musicians of all time: Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Freddie King. He was quite clear that in his early years, he tried to combine their efforts into something new, and as we all know, it was successful.

When asked if he was feeling something at the time and wanted to be technically skilled, Clapton replied:

“No, I was channelling music. I was channelling what I heard on record by people that I was following, trying to learn from; I was channelling Freddie King, BB King, Buddy Guy. I was melding all those guys into some new shape. And I think people liked that. Maybe people projected stuff onto that. But for me I was purely trying to turn people on to what I loved: old music.”

Below, see Eric Clapton channel the greatest blues musicians.


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