He is consistently ranked one of the most influential guitarists of all time. He is the only three-time inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was seriously considered to replace George Harrison of the Beatles in 1969 but settled for marrying Harrison’s wife. Known to many as “Slowhand”, he has also been called “God”. Many of his works contain expressions of faith, but his self-acknowledged failings have gotten the most attention. He is Eric Clapton.
The nickname, Slowhand, came from the slow clapping of audiences as Clapton fixed broken guitar strings on stage when a member of the Yardbirds in the early 1960s. The “God” moniker came from anonymous graffiti found near London’s Islington Tube Station that boldly proclaimed, “Clapton is God”.
Clapton was born in 1945 to an unwed, 16-year old English girl and a Canadian soldier who shipped off to war before his birth and who returned to Canada afterwards without seeing his son. One story suggests the young Eric believed the grandparents who raised him were his parents and his mother was an older sister.
By 1970, at the age of 25, Clapton had already been a powerful force in such well-known groups as The Yardbirds (“For Your Love”), Cream (“Sunshine of Your Love”) and Derek and the Dominos (“Layla”).
While playing with Blind Faith in 1969, Clapton composed both lyrics and tune for the song, “In the Presence of the Lord”. He also witnessed to becoming "a born-again Christian" after seeing "a blinding light" and sensing God's presence. However, his conversion wouldn’t protect him from himself.
He was good friends with the Beatles’ George Harrison but was so infatuated with Harrison’s model/photographer wife, Pattie Boyd, that he wrote “Layla” for her in 1970. Clapton and Boyd partnered up in 1974, eventually married in 1979 and divorced childless in 1988.
Clapton spent the early ‘70s nursing a heroin addiction: trading it for an alcohol addiction that lasted into the ‘80s. "Bad choices were my specialty," he said. In 1987, he claims to have finally fallen to his knees and "surrendered" to God, dedicating his sobriety to his newborn son, Conor, from his affair with Italian model Lory Del Santo. Four years later, Conor fell to his death from the window of a Park Avenue skyscraper.
While his career continued to flourish through addiction and tragedy, Clapton admitted, “… I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night, to express gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety.”
“Slowhand” has 19 Grammy awards including those for “My Father’s Eyes” and “Tears in Heaven”. Both hugely popular songs reflect on personal tragedies with hints of faith. When asked about prayer and faith, Clapton said, “I choose to kneel because I feel I need to humble myself when I pray, and with my ego, this is the most I can do. If you are asking why I do all this, I will tell you … because it works, as simple as that."
One can’t help but wonder and marvel how God has revealed himself through this other “God”.