For better and for worse, British-born guitar player Eric Clapton has been in the news quite a bit over the past few years, both for his music and for his thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic.
To many, Clapton represents one of the most skilled guitar players of all time. Whether playing solo, with his band Cream, or with other legends like George Harrison or Van Morrison, Clapton’s six-string has rung out like few others.
But in the past two years, “Slow Hand,” as he’s known, has come under fire for his comments regarding the pandemic, vaccine mandates, and more (even writing songs about it, like the track, “This Has Gotta Stop“).
Here, we will dive into his illustrious career and attempt to parse out what’s made him so famous, rich, and well, controversial.
Clapton was born on March 30, 1943, in Ripley Surrey, England.
He joined the Yardbirds in 1963, playing with the group for a number of years, earning praise and recognition. Clapton was an early lover of the blues and rock and roll music, inspired by early blues artists like Robert Johnson. He left the band in 1965.
In 1966, Clapton began playing out with the band Cream. Noted as one of the best guitarists in rock, Clapton was rivaled by big names like Jimi Hendrix and his acid-fueled brand of music. Cream disbanded in 1968.
In 1970, Clapton formed Derek and the Dominos, which was originally called “Eric Clapton and Friends.” It was in this band that he befriended Beatles guitarist George Harrison. Clapton soon fell in love with Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd, who spurned his advances and was the subject of one of Clapton’s most famous songs, “Layla.”
Drug Abuse, Personal Ups and Downs
Sadly, Clapton found himself struggling with both heroin and drug addiction—he said he spent upwards of $16,000 a week on heroin. He also had his ups and downs in his personal life, later living with Boyd (the two married in 1979) and straining his relationship with Harrison. He later admitted to abusing Boyd and he had two kids with other women.
He began a solo career and by the ’80s was coming out of his funk and earning praise again for his music. He went in and out of rehab facilities in the mid-’80s.
In the 1990s, Clapton had made a full resurgence. But the personal problems sadly didn’t end. His four-year-old son, Conor, died after falling from the 53rd-story window of his mother’s friend’s apartment. The song, “Tears in Heaven,” came from this tragedy. The song earned him several Grammy Awards.
Net Worth: Art, Cars, and Album Sales
Today, it’s estimated that Clapton’s career has earned him vast riches and that his net worth is about $450 million. He’s sold more than 100 million albums—indeed, he’s one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He’s also won 17 Grammy Awards.
But his music isn’t his only achievement. Clapton has earned significant payouts from real estate, art, and cars. His car collection alone is worth some $50 million, or more. And in 2001, he paid nearly $3.5 million for three Gerhard Richter paintings. He later sold them off one at a time for $77 million.
Clapton owns several homes in several locales, including spots in England, France, Ohio, and more. He has a home in Antigua that he built for $14 million in 2000.
Today, Clapton is continuing to release songs, including several controversial tracks having to do with COVID-19 and his perceived negative vaccine mandates. Whether these will hurt his legacy or his fortune is yet to be seen. No matter what, though, his fingerprints are very much on the history of rock and roll and, so far, his bank account seems to be doing just fine.
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