Happy Birthday Slowhand: 5 Iconic Eric Clapton Performances to Celebrate His 75th Year

Jake May on March 30, 2020
Happy Birthday Slowhand: 5 Iconic Eric Clapton Performances to Celebrate His 75th Year

Photo by Bill Kelly

Today, March 30, 2020, marks guitar hero and living legend Eric Clapton’s 75th birthday. The rock icon has one of the most storied careers in music history, from his early days with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, to his renowned turns with bands like Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos, to his extensive solo work.

To celebrate Clapton’s 75th year, we put together a set of five iconic performances of his.

Cream Perform Farewell Concerts at Royal Albert Hall

November 25 and 26, 1968

Cream, made up of Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums, was not only one of the first supergroups ever, but also one of the first rock and roll bands to embrace improvising, especially during live concerts. Sadly, this incredible group only existed from 1966 to 1968. In November of 1968, Cream performed two farewell shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Fortunately for us, footage of the shows lives on, intercut with interviews with the band. (Fun fact: up-and-coming progressive rock band Yes and Taste, a trio led by Rory Gallagher, served as openers for the shows.)

Blind Faith Perform “Had To Cry Today” at Hyde Park

June 7, 1969

After Cream split up, Clapton moved on to another supergroup, Blind Faith, which featured keyboardist/vocalist Steve Winwood, drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Ric Grech. The group was essentially only active in 1969, but their first ever concert – held in front of an estimated crowd of 100,000 at Hyde Park in London – was filmed and included this performance “Had To Cry Today,” the opening track of their eponymous (and only) LP.

In the summer of 1985, Eric Clapton participated in the worldwide concert event Live Aid, which raised funds for the famine disaster in Ethiopia. Clapton performed at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, again in front of an estimated 100,000 people, and his backing band included Phil Collins on drums. Clapton’s short set consisted of a performance of Cream’s “White Room,” “She’s Waiting” from his 1984 solo record Behind the Sun and closed with this rendition of “Layla.”

Bonus “Layla”

One of Clapton’s most well-known performances of “Layla” occurred during his appearance on MTV Unplugged in 1992. Watch a video of that rendition below:

“Give Me One Reason” with Tracy Chapman at A Very Special Christmas Live

December 1998

Eric Clapton and Tracy Chapman performed Chapman’s 1995 hit “Give Me One Reason” at A Very Special Christmas Live, a concert-benefit held in Washington, D.C. in 1998 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Special Olympics. A record of the same name was released in October of 1999, which featured performances from Jon Bon Jovi, Run D.M.C., Mary J. Blige and more. Clapton performed not only with Chapman that night; he collaborated with John Popper on “Christmas Blues” and Sheryl Crow on “Merry Christmas Baby,” played a solo take on “Christmas Tears” and joined the entire ensemble for a show-closing rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”

“Dear Mr. Fantasy” with Steve Winwood at Madison Square Garden

February 25, 2008

In February of 2008, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood performed their first full-length concerts together in over 40 years. The shows occurred at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and a compilation of recordings was released as an LP/DVD Live From Madison Square Garden in May of 2008. Each of the concerts ended with an encore performance of Traffic’s 1967 hit, “Dear Mr. Fantasy.”