Eric Clapton is acknowledged to be rock's greatest virtuoso, the unrivalled master of its most essential tool, the solid-body electric guitar.
Clapton transfigured three of the 1960s' most iconic bands, the Yardbirds, Cream and Blind Faith, walking away from each when it failed to measure up to his exacting standards. He was the only outsider be an honorary member of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and the studio musician of choice for solo superstars from Bob Dylan to Aretha Franklin.
Yet even as a rock god in excelsis, his true passion was always the blues. Even his own blues heroes, the likes of Muddy Waters, B. B. King and Buddy Guy, would recognise the supremacy of this wispy white boy from the English county of Surrey.
No life has been more rock 'n' roll than Clapton's in his epic consumption of drugs and alcohol, his insatiable appetite for expensive cars, clothes, and women - most famously revealed when he fell in love with Pattie Boyd, the wife of his best friend, George Harrison, and the inspiration for 'Layla'.
With the benefit of unrestricted access to family members, close friends and fellow musicians, and his encyclopedic knowledge of sixties music and culture, Philip Norman has written the definitive portrait of the insecure, often pain-racked man.
Norman (Paul McCartney: The Life) reveals little that's unknown about Eric Clapton's life and music in this straightforward yet enjoyable biography, written with Clapton's consent (though Clapton himself was not interviewed). Norman draws on conversations with the guitarist's friends, music associates, and family to chronicle Clapton's rise to fame, from his early years in art school through the formation of his various bands such as Derek and the Dominoes and Cream, as well as his love affair with and marriage to Pattie Boyd (once George Harrison's wife). Norman also writes about Clapton's heroin and alcohol addiction; the death of his four-year-old son, Conor, in 1991; and his development of the Crossroads guitar festivals, starting in 2004. Norman notes that, despite his superstardom, Clapton remains a sensitive, sometimes reclusive musician who seems never satisfied with either his own guitar playing or the bands he abruptly left: the Yardbirds, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and Cream. Norman does unveil one feature of Clapton's life that's not widely known: the guitarist's deep love of fine fashion (he bought 50% of shares in England's famous J.C. Cording men's store in 2004 and became its design director). In this thorough book, Norman hits all the important notes, and Clapton emerges as a person more comfortable with his fretboard than with other people.