In God We Trust: A Tribute to Eric Clapton and His Timeless Work

by Peter Wendel
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Clapton75 SongMango.comEric Clapton – one of the greatest rock guitarists to have ever lived – may be all but done playing the instrument that made him a god. According to a recent interview with Classic Rock, Clapton could be a mere mortal after all, subjected to the unavoidable laws of humanity like old age and gravity.

The 71-year-old guitarist revealed to Classic Rock that he was diagnosed with a debilitating form of nerve damage known as peripheral neuropathy in 2013 and that playing guitar, which once came so naturally, is now “hard work.”

Here’s how Clapton tells it:

I’ve had quite a lot of pain over the last year. It started with lower back pain and turned into what they call peripheral neuropathy, which is where you feel like you have electric shocks going down your leg. And I’ve had to figure out how to deal with some other things from getting old.

Treatments for the nerve condition primarily focus on pain management. Some patients are able to manage their pain while others are forced to bear it for the rest of their lives.

Clapton2Main SongMango.comMore from Eric, who seems to be taking a hard, realistic look at his health:

One thing I had to realize was that this particular condition I’m living with isn’t necessarily going to get better. Like sometimes things do – you might catch something, and it will get better. Not this.

Ironically, the tragic news comes on the heels of the release of Clapton’s 23rd studio album, aptly entitled I Still Do, which was released in late May.

Read Clapton’s full interview with Classic Rock here.

As one of the world’s greatest guitarists gets ready to leave his craft behind, we pay tribute to Eric Clapton and his god-like blues-infused contributions to rock music. Here are some of the finest performances of his finest songs – and a few covers to boot. Clapton helped build the House of Rock – and we are all better and richer for it.

AFTER MIDNIGHT
With Steve Winwood (2008)

Here we have Clapton and his former Blind Faith bandmate Steve Winwood performing a jacked-up version of J.J. Cale’s classic in 2008 at Madison Square Garden. Clapton released the Cale cover on his self-entitled debut album in 1970.

ANYDAY
With The ABB & Susan Tedeschi (2009)

Here’s a tip of the hat to Derek And The Dominos, Clapton’s incognito band from 1970. Of course, Derek was really Eric and the album the band produced is a timeless masterpiece, Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). Performing “Anyday” with The Allman Brothers Band has special meaning since the late, great Duane Allman contributed to 11 of the 14 tracks on Layla, including this one. (If you can’t get enough of Duane Allman and the making of Layla, there’s more here.)

BADGE
Eric Clapton and his band (1977)

Eric rips “Badge,” a song he co-wrote with friend and Beatle, George Harrison. The track was released on Cream’s final album, Goodbye, in 1969.

BELL BOTTOM BLUES
Live (Acoustic) Video Version (2007)

Here’s another track from Derek And The Dominos off the 1970 album, Layla.

COCAINE
The Royal Albert Hall (2015)

Clapton at 70 brings down the house with his cover of J.J. Cale’s 1976 classic. That dirty cocaine

CROSSROADS
Cream’s Farewell Concert (1968)

Supergroup Cream scorches the blues standard written and recorded in 1936 by the legendary Robert Johnson. This red-hot performance from Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker took place at the Royal Albert Hall on November 26, 1968 – the second of two farewell concerts.

I SHOT THE SHERIFF
Crossroads Guitar Festival (2010)

The song was written and released by reggae legend, Bob Marley, in 1973. Clapton covered it and released it on his second studio album, 461 Ocean Boulevard, in July of 1974. By doing so, Clapton helped introduce reggae music to American and British audiences.

LAY DOWN SALLY
With Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits)

It’s a real treat to hear two guitar gods perform this rambling shuffle. “Lay Down Sally” was co-written by Clapton, Marcy Levy and George Terry. The track appears on Clapton’s 1977 album, Slowhand. The song topped out at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

LAYLA
3 Versions of Clapton’s Masterpiece

It’s the title track from Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (1970) – the only album produced by Clapton’s band, Derek And The Dominos. Enjoy the following: (1) the original (audio only) with master slide guitarist, Duane Allman; (2) a live electric version; and (3) an acoustic version from Hyde Park in 1996. (If you’re interested, there’s more on Duane and Derek and the making of Layla, right here.)

LITTLE WING
3 Versions of the Hendrix Classic

The song was written by Jimi Hendrix and recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967. Clapton’s cover, which appears on Layla, rivals Jimi’s original. Here are three versions: (1) the Derek And The Dominos’ original cover with Duane Allman (audio only); (2) a performance with Steve Winwood from 2008; and (3) a live rendition with Sheryl Crow.

WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS
Concert for George (2002)

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was written by Clapton’s friend George Harrison, and first recorded by The Beatles in 1968 for their White Album. The track features Clapton on lead guitar (though he was not formally credited on the album). Below we have Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Harrion’s son Dhani and others performing the song at the “Concert for George,” which was held at the Royal Albert Hall on November 29, 2002, as a memorial to George Harrison on the first anniversary of his death. He died from lung cancer at the age of 58.

WONDERFUL TONIGHT
2 Versions of Clapton’s Beauty

Legend has it that Clapton wrote this beautiful ballad for Pattie Boyd – who was then the wife of George Harrison. Reportedly, Eric wrote it on September 7, 1976, while waiting for Pattie to get ready to attend Paul and Linda McCartney’s annual Buddy Holly party. (Boyd and Harrison were separated in 1974 and their divorce was finalized in the summer of 1977.) According to Boyd: “For years it tore at me. To have inspired Eric, and George before him, to write such music was so flattering. ‘Wonderful Tonight’ was the most poignant reminder of all that was good in our relationship, and when things went wrong it was torture to hear it.” The track appears on Clapton’s 1977 album Slowhand.

Peter Wendel is a journalist and PR consultant. He's attended hundreds of concerts and festivals, including the Peach Mountain Jam, The All Good and Lockn'. He's ridden legendary Grateful Dead runs from Ventura County Fairgrounds to Irvine Meadows (CA) from the Nassau Coliseum (NY) to the Boston Garden (MA). Peter is a former U.S. Marine who – after running into trouble with every last one of his commanding officers – received an honorable discharge and a direct order never to return. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, Peter lived in Boston and Joshua Tree (CA) before settling in the nation's capital. Find him on tour at PWendel@SongMango.com.

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