If you should spot Eric Clapton in the next few hours, be sure to throw some streamers at him and find out what flavor ice cream cake he prefers, because the legendary guitarist turns 65 years old today. The man who was called both “Slowhand” and “God” back in the 1970s has laid out an unbelievable career for himself, contributing to some of the most iconic rock bands and songs of all time.
In the ’60s, he moved around from band to band, serving time in the Yardbirds (a haven for iconic guitarists who later gave work to both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck), John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (where Clapton had his first real chart success), Cream (a retroactive supergroup that featured fellow Bluesbreaker Jack Bruce and legendary drummer Ginger Baker) and Blind Faith (another supergroup that also featured Traffic guitarist Steve Winwood). The list of songs that feature Clapton on guitar reads like a greatest hits of the ’60s, including “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room,” “Crossroads,” “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “What’d I Say” and “For Your Love.”
In the 1970s, Clapton formed Derek and the Dominos (who hit it big with “Layla”) before finally setting off on his own. He scored a chart-topping hit with a cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” and later hit it big with tracks like “Wonderful Tonight” and “Cocaine.”
Along with Jimi Hendrix (a close friend) and only a handful of others, Clapton is on the Mount Rushmore of rock guitarists, and his influence can be heard in everybody who has ever tried to rock up a blues lick. A case could be made that he accidentally invented heavy metal, though one of his most iconic performances was during a taping of “MTV Unplugged” back in 1992. The album scored him six Grammy Awards (mostly for the song “Tears in Heaven,” a tribute to his late son Conor) and showed Clapton as the blues purist that he was. He blended together his own classics with blues greats like Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me.”