I’ve had a lot of conversations with people of all ages about Eric Clapton, specifically about how I think he’s talented and multi-versatile, but extremely overrated. Constantly, lists of the greatest guitarists include Clapton high up on their list, and, while he is definitely a great guitar player and absolutely important in the history of rock and roll if only because of how many bands he played a role in, Clapton’s body of work is mixed.
To me, his high point was with Cream – the psychedelic swirls of sound that he created with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce are one of a kind and set the archetype for a lot of the music that I personally really enjoy. Others may disagree and argue that his time in the Yardbirds was more influential, or that he did more with the guitar during his time with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, or Derek and the Dominoes, or even Blind Faith. There’s no arguing his importance in rock history, but his collective body of work as a musician has left me wondering why so many from previous generations are obsessed with him.
Surprisingly, despite his productive career, Clapton only had one #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and that didn’t happen until he was in his solo career was in full swing in 1974, with a respectable, but frankly tedious cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” that rose to the top on September 14th of that year. Clapton’s cover is certainly better than say, Marge Simpson’s, but it is mainly a retread of what Marley did more genuinely. Even his live performance of the song jumps out as way more exhilarating than the studio version.