British rock guitarist and songwriter whose blues-influenced virtuoso playing did much to shape the sound of the modern electric guitar.
Born in Surrey, Clapton studied stained-glass making at art college before beginning his musical career as lead guitarist with The Yardbirds (1963) and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. In 1966 he joined Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker to establish the ‘supergroup’ Cream, which broke up, after sensational chart success, in 1968. Periods playing with Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominoes were ended (1971) by Clapton's growing heroin addiction. It was during this period, however, that Clapton produced his first solo album, Eric Clapton (1970), and composed the acclaimed ‘Layla’, which was inspired by Clapton's unrequited love for model Patti Boyd, the wife of Clapton's best friend, ex-Beatle George Harrison; Boyd left Harrison and eventually married Clapton in 1979, but the marriage was dissolved in 1988.
Having successfully overcome his drug addiction, Clapton made a comeback in 1973 with the more mellow sound of 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974). A further battle against addiction, this time to alcohol, was won in 1982. Among Clapton's most celebrated recordings is Unplugged (1992), which includes ‘Tears in Heaven’, a song written in response to the tragic death of his four-year-old son Connor, who fell from a window in New York. The achievement of Unplugged was recognized with the award of six Grammys in 1993 and was followed by an acclaimed greatest-hits album, The Cream of Eric Clapton, in 1995. His latest album is Pilgrim (1998).