The people we idolize when we are young can have such a lasting impact on our lives. Sometime in junior high school I discovered the music of Eric Clapton. This was a pivotal moment in my journey. Clapton was one of the first players I came across that used his guitar as an extension of his voice. I was obsessed with my new found guitar hero, and spent most of my teenage years studying every nuance of his playing and legacy. I've even owned two of his signature Stratocasters.
I quickly identified with Clapton’s persona. He seems a bit introverted and shy, and really lets his music do the talking. His stage shows typically have a pretty simple set up - not a lot of flash, and he is always diplomatic when it comes to sharing the stage. This is something I’ve always tried to embody as a performer. Surrounding yourself with excellent musicians and allowing them space to shine is one the greatest thrills of being on stage.
One of the first Clapton records I got my hands on was a live CD/DVD recording called One More Car, One More Rider. I probably watched that thing hundreds of times. Many members of his live band are some of my favorite players today - Nathan East, Steve Gadd, and Billy Preston - just to name a few. The first time I saw Clapton in concert I remember being overwhelmed to the point of tears.
Whether Clapton is your guitar hero or not, it’s hard to deny his impact on blues and rock music. I think his larger legacy is keeping blues music alive. Clapton has put the spotlight on so many blues artists that may have fallen by the wayside in their later years - B.B. King, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy , JJ Cale - the list goes on and on. He also paved the way for so many younger players from Richie Sambora to John Mayer. Clapton is largely responsible for introducing Bob Marley's music to American audiences as well.
I imagine our childhood heroes are much like our first boyfriends or girlfriends. Even though we go on to experience other things, they always hold a special place in our hearts. I still find inspiration in Eric’s records today. I saw recently he will be playing two dates this fall at Madison Square Garden. I’ll probably grab a ticket - it will most likely be my last chance to see my hero.