Clapton Back at Crossroads

Rock legend plays tribute to his "gentle" idol

February 12, 2004 12:00 AM ET

"I should have done it a long time ago," says Eric Clapton about his tribute to the man who first inspired him to pick up a guitar, Robert Johnson. The album, titled Me and Mr. Johnson, is due March 23rd.

Clapton -- whose first lead vocal was a 1966 rendition of Johnson's "Ramblin' on My Mind" with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers -- says he fell in love with the Johnson collection King of the Delta Blues Singers when it came out in 1961; most of the tracks on Me and Mr. Johnson are drawn from that album.

With a band that includes Billy Preston on keyboards and Andy Fairweather-Low and Doyle Bramhall II on guitars, Clapton swaggers through low-key renditions of "Milkcow's Calf Blues," "Hellhound on My Trail" and "32-20 Blues."

"Johnson's style was so complicated that it usually takes two people to copy his sound," says Clapton. "I've always found it necessary to delegate parts of his arrangements to other musicians."

Clapton's favorite track is "Kindhearted Woman Blues." "It was so gentle," he says of the original. "Blind Willie Johnson, Charley Patton and Son House were all rough-sounding guys. Robert Johnson wasn't able to mask his vulnerability."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

More Song Stories entries »