The rock star secured fame by bringing US southern music to a new audience. Then the unrestrained hedonism beganSome time around 1965, when he was 20 years old and playing guitar with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton became the first British rock musician whose instrumental virtuosity inspired feelings of both admiration and lust. His blues-based riffs and solos impressed boys but their effect was particularly evident on his female listeners, which was odd because Clapton hardly seemed the obvious pop star type. He was handsome, but not spectacularly so. What imbued him with a special charisma was his seriousness. On a mission to expose the music of the US south to a new audience in as pure a form as possible, he captured the raw emotion of the sound he loved enough to transfix his young listeners. A generation was discovering an alien language with which they instinctively felt at home. That cultural leap – which began with conversations in record shops, coffee bars and art schools, and eventually swept the world – is one of the key stories of the last century and is always worth re-examining, as Philip Norman does in this biography of one of the movement’s pioneers.
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