Me & Mr. Clapton: Why Eric Clapton is My Biggest Musical Influence
By, Jeff Sauerman
My name is Jeff Sauerman and I’m a Popular Music Major at William Paterson University. I received an AAS in Marketing and Communications from Berkeley College in 2013 and I graduated high school at Northern Highlands Regional High School in 2012. I want to get involved in the music industry in as many ways as possible. Whether it be writing and performing my own material, music business, or any other opportunity that comes my way, I want to do as much as I can.
Quite Simply, Clapton is God
Growing up, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers, and everyone else you can think of from that era of music was always playing. I mostly listened to country music like Tim McGraw and Keith Urban that I heard on the radio while in the car with my mom though. It had that rock guitar but was more fun to sing a long to. But by 6th grade I wanted more so I delved deeper into the other music I was exposed to. The album that really did it for me was “Disraeli Gears” by Cream. While painfully short, “Tales of Brave Ulysses” swirls beautifully and “Sunshine of Your Love” became one of the first songs I ever performed. I was in 8th grade when his autobiography came out and I read it four times by the end of the year.
The history behind the music was just as compelling as the music itself. I loved learning the context of how boundary shattering the music of these artists was. I loved learning where they got it from, reading stories of Eric practicing Big Bill Broonzy at nauseam or Duane Allman pausing and playing Taj Mahal records with his toe because his guitar was in his hands trying to learn the licks. Eric Clapton first made a name for himself as a side man for the band John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers where his distinct tone gave new life to the blues. By the time he formed the, as some call it, first supergroup, Cream, it was regular practice for his fans to spray paint “Clapton is God” all over London subways and most of England.
Of all of his albums, live and studio, my favorite by him is the album “Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs” by Derek and the Dominoes, a group he lead under a pseudonym because he always hated feeling like the center of attention. They only made one album because the other core member, Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers, was unable to tour with the group due to dedications to his own group and then, less than a year after the album’s release, he died in a motorcycle accident. The album remains as lightning in a bottle. In my opinion, the two greatest (bar Jimi Hendrix) at the height of their careers. Eric’s signature sound dances with and responses to Duane’s silky slide playing. America’s best with England’s best. The album is chaotically beautiful and is just as much about love for a girl as it is love for the guitar.
The guitar was always what my ears went to and it was always Eric’s riffs and licks that grabbed me the most. His playing is so expressive and each lick comes with punctuation. Sometimes it’s a coma, sometimes an exclamation point, but the most definitive ones always end with a big fat period. You can almost see him drop the mic.
-Jeff Sauerman, Pop Music Major WPU Class of 2018