Eric Clapton And The Legacy Of A Devil’s Deal

Music often serves as the way we process our emotions. We turn our favorite song up to cheer us a little bit and dance around — or play that one song we relate to the most when feeling sad. In artists’ case, things aren’t that much different. Many musicians sit down and write songs after their own experiences, whether it’s grief, joy, or romance. Looking through Eric Clapton’s career, we can clearly see that he belongs to this group.

Clapton has had a successful music career, but he had a run of unfortunate events in his personal life. First of all, he grew up believing his grandmother and father were his parents. Years later, Eric wrote ‘My Father’s Eyes’ for his long-lost father before finally finding out who he was in 2007. He fell in love with his best friend George Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd, and wrote ‘Layla’ to express his hopeless love for her. In the end, Clapton won Boyd’s heart, but they didn’t live happily ever after.

After ending his marriage with Pattie Boyd, Eric Clapton married Lory Del Santo, who was pregnant then. Soon after, the couple welcomed their son, Conor. However, their happiness didn’t last long. In 1990, Clapton was shaken by Stevie Ray Vaughan’s tragic death in a plane crash. A year later, four-year-old Conor fell out of his bedroom window from the 53rd window. This incident left Eric Clapton with a scar that has never healed, so he wrote ‘Tears In Heaven’ to cope with Conor’s loss.

Looking through the stream of events, it appears as if a curse followed Eric Clapton through all those years. For some rumors, this might be true. The story begins with a myth about Robert Johnson, a blues icon that Clapton saw as his idol. Legend has it that Robert made a deal with the devil to rise to fame and become a talented artist in a short time. Sadly, he didn’t enjoy this success for a long time, as the musician died at the age of 27, joining the 27 Club.

Eric Clapton admired Robert Johnson’s work since his early career. Back when he was playing with Cream, he covered Johnson’s ‘Crossroads,’ a song rumored to have a curse for the artists who covered it. For instance, some fans blame Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ill fate and the Allman Brothers’ death curse on this song. As the rumor goes, Robert’s ‘Crossroads’ refers to the location where he made a deal with the devil.

In the following years, Clapton continued to cover ‘Crossroads’ on various occasions. To pay tribute to his musical hero, he even recorded a solo album titled ‘Me And Mr. Johnson.’ In the album, he sang covers of his favorite Robert Johnson songs, which he didn’t believe were covered successfully. According to Clapton, Johnson’s works were a labor of love and so much more powerful than any song he listened to.

Here is what Eric Clapton told NPR’s Bob Edwards in 2004 about Robert Johnson’s music:

“I was definitely overwhelmed, but I was also a bit repelled by the intensity of it. I got hooked on it because it was so much more powerful than anything else I had heard or was listening to. Amongst all of his peers, I felt he was the one that was talking from his soul without really compromising for anybody. In one way or another, he’s been in my life since I was a kid. [This project] has been in the back of my head to do for so long. It was about time that I took my hat off to him.”

So, Robert Johnson was Eric Clapton’s single most important influence, and he saw the blues legend as his idol. Keeping in mind the rumors that Johnson had sold his soul to the devil for success, many believe Clapton also suffered many tragedies in his life as his disciple. However, of course, these are only theories that can’t be fact-checked.