Clapton Is God
In the 60s, it is rumored that someone wrote some graffiti saying “Clapton Is God” in a London subway station. Yes, the gentleman is a pretty good guitarist. When in April a friend from high school told his girlfriend, “Dave was Slash back in high school, and now he’s Eric Clapton,” I asked him why he thought I had regressed (which I have not).
In the first wave of hard rock from about 1965 until 1975 (maybe not even that long), there are a few guitarists who get more fame than others. The important names from that era are Hendrix (duh), Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck — and Carlos Santana, but I said hard rock. (I will remark that I really like Carlos Santana. It’s not evident in my playing anymore, but he was my main influence for a long time, and I started playing the guitar shortly after I heard Smooth when I was 10 years old.) Hendrix did Voodoo Child, Bold as Love, and Little Wing, and then he died. Page played the Stairway to Heaven solo and has awesome riffs on 100 other Zeppelin songs. Jeff Beck was a fool with how he approached his career, and he would probably be considered the best if he had managed to be as well known to non-guitarists as the others (or at least their bands), but at least later in his career he did the Blow by Blow album with ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers. White Room, Sunshine of Your Love, and Crossroads are pretty cool, and then Clapton kind of vanished from credible rock guitar. (Layla has Duane Allman playing the fun parts.)
Perhaps it’s just because I really hate Clapton’s song Wonderful Tonight THAT much that I can’t justify having him in the same tier as Hendrix, Page, Beck, Santana, Romeo, Petrucci, and Slash, but for whatever reason, I can’t put him up there. There are guitar gods; he is not one of them.
Who do you all think of as the great guitarists? Does anyone viciously disagree with me about Clapton? For the musicians who are not guitarists, who do you consider the best at your instrument, the true virtuosos?
(We have a canonical list of the great composers; it was on display in my high school’s chorus room. There can be such a list for each of the various instruments.)