When Eric Clapton Realized His Inadequacy To Be A Lead Singer

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The rock music stage has been invaded by leads who had different styles and extraordinary talents as singers and performers. Being a lead singer can be considered a very challenging duty in a band because of its requirements such as charisma, vocal capability, and even dancing, which was notably more popular in the ’70s and ’80s.

Queen’s Freddie Mercury, The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, and countless other singers are great examples of the best frontmen, thanks to their uniqueness and influence. However, some artists chose to stay behind and only become the leader in their band’s creativity instead of singing in the front. One of these musicians is the celebrated guitar player Eric Clapton who never claimed to be a frontman even though he had a few chances.

Why Did Eric Clapton Think He Couldn’t Be A Lead?

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Eric Clapton’s first step to a professional career as a musician was with The Yardbirds, but he disapproved of the band’s change from blues to a more radio-friendly pop-rock and parted ways with them in 1965. Shortly after, he joined the blues-rock band John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. More and more rock and blues lovers realized that Clapton was an exceptional guitarist who would inspire many generations.

Even though his time with the Bluesbreakers was short-lived, his fans were grateful that it resulted in the power trio Cream’s foundation. The band gained worldwide popularity and commercial success with their musicianship and combining different genres, blues, hard rock, and psychedelic rock. In addition, their third studio album, entitled ‘Wheels of Fire,’ became the world’s first platinum-selling double album.

In one of his previous conversations, Clapton stated that American blues guitarist and singer Buddy Guy, who inspired Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and Jeff Beck, influenced him greatly while forming Cream. The guitarist emphasized Buddy’s unbelievable charisma and genius, and he always wanted to be like him. Later, he found out it was a delusion for him.

In Clapton’s words, he said:

“I’d seen Buddy live, and it was unbelievable. He was in total command, and I thought, ‘This is it.’ So yes. That’s where the idea came from. It seemed to me you could do anything with a trio, at least if you were a genius and a maestro like Buddy Guy. I was suffering from delusions of grandeur in that direction.”

Clapton understood that he didn’t have enough confidence to be a frontman, although he was very talented because he wasn’t used to singing except for some works with The Yardbirds and John Mayall. While Cream members were rehearsing and performing, the guitarist saw that Jack Bruce was naturally gifted at being on the front and became their singer. It seems that Clapton could have performed amazingly as a frontman if he had gotten away from his fear and anxiety.

Here’s what the reporter asked:

“After the Bluesbreakers album, the ‘Clapton Is God’ graffiti was already starting to appear around London, wasn’t it?”

Clapton responded:

“Around that period, yes. However, I don’t take back what I say about delusions of grandeur because once I stepped into the reality of trying to realize my musical vision with Cream, it just disappeared. On the first day of rehearsal with Jack and Ginger, it was obvious to me that I didn’t have what it took.

Maybe I had something of the technical ability or was at least heading in the right direction. However, I didn’t have the confidence or anything like it. I was seeing Buddy Guy and thinking, ‘I can do that,’ but I’d never really sung in my life.

Only bits and pieces with The Yardbirds and a couple of times with John Mayall. I’d seen myself as the front guy with Cream, but when we got there, the reality was that Jack was easily the best equipped for that role. That’s how it immediately evolved.”

After comparing himself to the musicians born to be lead singers, Clapton concluded that some people aren’t naturally gifted to be in the front. While many would disagree that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a frontman, the guitarist never made music to gain popularity in the first place, which explains why he immediately accepted not being a lead.