When Eric Clapton Escaped Death And Stevie Ray Vaughan Died Instead
As most of you would agree, Eric Clapton is one of the most influential rock and blues guitarists in the music scene. Due to his talented musicianship, Clapton is frequently ranked among the greatest guitarists of all time. Besides, he has received many awards, including 18 Grammys and four Ivor Novello Awards.
Back in 1963, Clapton joined the Yardbirds after playing with several local bands. Due to the band’s sound change towards pop-rock, he left Yardbirds in 1965. After that, Clapton contributed to several music acts and formed the bands Cream and Blind Faith. However, in 1970, he decided to pursue a solo career.
Clapton recorded numerous successful hits throughout his solo career, including 1977’s ‘Slowhand’ album and the 1986’s pop-rock album ‘August.’ In the 1990s, Clapton embarked on a series of 32 concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. Although Clapton enjoyed considerable success back then, something tragic happened on August 27, 1990. Let’s learn more about what happened that day.
Stevie Ray Vaughan Was Killed In A Helicopter Crash Which Could Have Killed Eric Clapton As Well
On August 27, 1990, iconic blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan was performing with his band Double Trouble to open for Eric Clapton at Alpine Valley Music Theatre. After the concert’s end, three members of Clapton’s tour crew and Stevie Ray Vaughan boarded a helicopter. Unfortunately, the helicopter crashed soon after takeoff, and all the passengers were pronounced dead after authorities arrived at the scene. At the time of his passing, Vaughan was just 35 years old.
Following this tragic incident, Clapton’s son Conor died after falling out of a window at the age of four. Both of these heartbreaking incidents deeply scared the musician. Besides, knowing that he could have been in that helicopter that day possibly affected Clapton’s whole life. According to the musician, losing his son and the death of Vaughan taught him that every day in one’s life is a blessing.
In a 1991 interview by Rolling Stone, Eric Clapton talked about the tragic passing of Stevie Ray Vaughan. After saying he reacted to Vaughan’s death the same way he did to his son’s, Clapton recalled what happened that day. He said they eventually decided to carry on and performed in honor of Vaughan’s memory. According to Clapton, the guitarist’s death was unbelievable as Vaughan made a jaw-dropping performance on the day of the crash.
In the interview by Rolling Stone, Eric Clapton recalled the incident as:
“Bobby was a tremendous guy, a very funny man. He was in the helicopter with Stevie Ray, as were Nigel Browne and Colin Smythe of my crew. There was a convoy of helicopters, about five of them, and they had to go back through this very thick fog up to about 100 feet above the ground. And once we came out of that, we just took off for Chicago.
When I got back, I went straight to bed. And I was woken about seven in the morning by my manager, Roger Forrester, saying that the helicopter with Stevie Ray and our chaps hadn’t come back. And then a bit later, someone discovered the wreckage. That was it.
I had a meeting with all the bands and the managers. And all the crew had gone on to the next show, so we got them on the phone, and we tried to come up with a unanimous decision about whether we should go home or whether we should go on. And the vote came out, after hours of discussion, that we should go on. It was clearly felt that if we packed up and went home, the whole thing would just be unbearable.”
He went on to say:
“So we went to… I think it was St. Louis, or somewhere in the Midwest, and we were almost in shock. I could hardly remember any of the words. I don’t know how we got through it. But it was the best tribute I thought that we could make – to carry on and let everybody who was coming to see us know that it was in honor of their memory.
The worst thing for me was that Stevie Ray had been sober for three years and was at his peak. When he played that night, he had all of us standing mere with our jaws dropped. I mean, Robert Cray and Jimmie Vaughan and Buddy Guy were just watching in awe. There was no one better than him on this planet. Really unbelievable.“
It is crazy to think that Eric Clapton would not be here if he were in that helicopter with Stevie Ray Vaughan. Considering this possibility, the death of his son, and the grief he felt due to both Vaughan’s and his son Conor’s death, those times were sure hard for Clapton.