It's hard to believe, and harder to accept, but is Eric Clapton about to play one last riff?
Clapton, or "Slowhand" as he is affectionately called by fans recently announced that not only was he a "Belieber" but, more importantly, that he might be retiring following the release of his new album. Just as a safety measure, if this indeed turns out to be his last album, Clapton covered the blues standard I'll Be Seeing You, as a way of saying goodbye.
In the same interview he said, "I love the song and I love the sentiment. It’s one of those things that’s been haunting me. Just in case I don't cut another record, this is how I feel. I kind of might be saying goodbye. But I've been doing that for a while."
Now's the time, then, to glide through the master guitarist's career and pick out some of the best performances.
Think Clapton and one of the first songs that comes to mind is the 1970 Derek and the Dominoes hit Layla. The title track of the acclaimed album Layla and other assorted love songs, the track was inspired by the guitarist's real life love for Patti Boyd, the former wife of his best friend George Harrison, and his love of the epic poem The Story of Layla and Majnu.
The seven-minute long track which appears on the album is a beautiful ballad that ends with a piano solo which was famously used in Martin Scorcese's Goodfellas.
Although there has been debate over which version is better, here is the dramatically altered version that appeared on MTV Unplugged, featuring just Clapton and the crunching sounds of his guitar, although it controversially won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song over Nirvana's song of a generation Smells Like Teen Spirit. See if you can spot this one.
There have been numerous contenders for the title of the "Fifth Beatle", and Eric Clapton, who played the lead guitar for the Harrison's Beatles classic While My Guitar Gently Weeps has often been given that sobriquet. When Harrison left the band for a short while, John Lennon apparently even considered Clapton as a replacement. Even after the band broke up, Clapton appeared on at least one track of each of the former Beatle's solo recordings.
Here is a performance from the Concert for George memorial held after Harrison's early death. There are few things as fulfilling in rock music as watching Clapton sinking into a guitar solo as he does here.
By the mid 1960s, Clapton had reached a significant stature on the British music scene, so much so that the slogan "Clapton is God" was graffitied on the walls of London. After the breakup of the blues groups The Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Clapton joined rock supergroup Cream, fronted by legendary drummer Ginger Baker. One of the trio's biggest hits was their cover of Robert Johnson's Crossroads, which Clapton revitalised with his virtuoso guitar playing.
Here is the band performing some of their biggest hits: White Room, Crossroads and Badge, during their 2005 reunion.
While Clapton's guitar-playing has won him numerous awards and critical acclaim, his solo records and songwriting haven't been as appreciated. Those solo recordings have a sheen and overproduced feel that his earlier, more raucous works do not have. In a way, they almost mask his guitar-playing. Here is the best example of his solo work, Wonderful Tonight, written as a love ballad for his first wife Pattie Boyd.
And finally, to go back to where it all began, here is a video from Slowhand's early days when he was part of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, recorded for their debut album Blue Breakers with Eric Clapton in 1966. It's a gorgeous jazz-inflected slow blues performance that foreshadows the brilliance of what was still to come.