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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Eric Clapton Songs

Your picks include “Cocaine,” “Old Love” and “Badge”

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton

Robert Knight Archive/Redferns

This week, Eric Clapton announced details of his upcoming studio album, Old Sock. It's a fitting title for an artist who has been around for a very long time but never quite seems to go away. He's as popular on the concert circuit now as he was in 1971, and his catalog of songs has grown to epic proportions. We asked our readers to vote on their single favorite track last week, and the feedback was overwhelming. Fans voted for songs from throughout his entire career. The winner, however, received about four times as many votes as anything else. Click through to see the results. 

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10. ‘The Core’

Eric Clapton's career as a pop hitmaker peaked in 1977 with the release of his fifth album, Slowhand. It produced the hit singles "Lay Down Sally," "Wonderful Tonight" and "Cocaine." It probably could have become a Number One album, but it was up against the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack's 24-week reign at the top of the charts. One song off the album that didn't get much attention was "The Core," a nearly nine-minute duet with backup singer Marcy Levy, who also co-wrote the tune. The song has slowly developed a following over the years, and today it's seen as one of Clapton's finest love songs. 

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9. ‘Badge’

Eric Clapton and George Harrison had a complicated relationship. They became close friends in 1968, and they worked together on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" for the Beatles and "Badge" for Cream within the period of a few weeks that year. The latter song is a standout track on Cream's final album, Goodbye. They wrote it together and Harrison joined the power trio for the recording session, but he wasn't credited for contractual reasons.

Two years later, Clapton wrote "Layla" about his mad love for George's wife, Pattie Boyd. They eventually married, though Harrison and Clapton somehow remained tight through the whole ordeal. "Badge" remained a part of Clapton's live set for years, though he never played it with Cream until their reunion shows in 2005. According to legend, it's called "Badge" because he misread the word "Bridge" off the sheet music. 

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8. ‘White Room’

Cream's 1968 song "White Room" is one of the most famous songs of Eric Clapton's entire career, but when the group first recorded the track, it got very mixed reactions. They didn't even include it on Disraeli Gears in the fear that it sounded too similar to "Tales of Brave Ulysses." They came to their senses about eight months later and put the song on Wheels of Fire. It became a global Top 10 hit and has been played on classic rock radio roughly forty billion times since. 

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7. ‘Old Love’

In the 1980s, Eric Clapton lost battles with booze and drum machines, but he ended the decade on a pretty strong note with Journeyman. The standout track is "Old Love" (co-written with Robert Cray), though it's hard to argue that the definitive version of the track came three years later on Clapton's Unplugged album. His pain sounds far more real when the 1980s production is removed in favor of acoustic guitar and piano. 

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6. ‘Cocaine’

Eric Clapton has described his 1977 JJ Cale cover "Cocaine" as an "anti-drug" song, but he certainly wasn't living a drug-free lifestyle when it first hit the charts (or over the next decade). The song reached Number 30 in 1977 (helping Cale pay some bills), but Clapton took it out of his setlist in later years, fearing its message would be misunderstood. When it came back, he added the line "dirty cocaine" to make his point quite clear. 

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5. ‘Crossroads’

Eric Clapton has worshipped at the altar of blues legend Robert Johnson for his entire five-decade career, even releasing a whole album of his songs in 2004. Clapton is also responsible for bringing his music to the masses, since few people were familiar with his songs until Cream released their cover of "Cross Road Blues" as a single in 1968. It was the lead-off track to the live section of Wheels of Fire, taped on March 10th, 1968, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The band was fighting like crazy at this time and just months away from breaking up, but onstage, they were absolutely mind-blowing. To many Clapton fans, this song represents Clapton's playing at its absolute peak. It's been a staple of classic rock radio ever since. He's also played it at most of his solo shows over the past four decades, but it's never sounded nearly as transcendent as it did with Cream. 

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4. ‘Tears in Heaven’

There are about three people on the planet who remember the 1991 Jennifer Jason Leigh movie Rush. It's about two undercover cops who become drug addicts. The handful of people who saw it in the theaters were the first to hear "Tears in Heaven." Eric Clapton composed the soundtrack, and he included a new song he wrote about the tragic death of his four-year-old son, Conor. The video played in a constant loop on VH1 for months on end and shortly afterward, Clapton rerecorded the song for Unplugged, giving it another boost on the charts. It became one of the biggest hits of Clapton's career, but by 2004, he could no longer face singing the song and he dropped it from his setlist. 

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3. ‘Wonderful Tonight’

No woman in rock history has inspired more classic songs than Pattie Boyd. George Harrison met the stunning blonde on the set of A Hard Day's Night in 1964 and fell madly in love with her. Eric Clapton met her a few years later and had the same reaction, even though she was married to Harrison at that point. She turned down his advances, throwing him into a massive downward spiral of heroin and depression. Fortunately for Clapton, Pattie and George's marriage fell apart by 1974 and she fell into Clapton's arms. He wrote "Wonderful Tonight" about waiting for her to get ready for Paul and Linda McCartney's Buddy Holly-themed party in 1976. 

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2. ‘Bell Bottom Blues’

Eric Clapton wrote the music for the one and only Derek and the Dominos album while still completely obsessed with Pattie Boyd. "Bell Bottom Blues" was the first song he finished for the project. "Pattie asked me to get her some pairs of these jeans we used to call Landlubbers," Clapton wrote in his memoir. "Which were hipsters with two little slip pockets at the front. She had asked for flared rather than straight bottoms." That simple request led to one of the all-time great unrequited love songs in rock history, and Clapton's anguish is painfully clear in every note of this song. 

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1. ‘Layla’

Clapton's absolute obsession with Pattie Boyd came to a boiling point when he wrote "Layla." "I was driven by my obsession," he wrote in his memoir. "'Layla' was the key song, a conscious attempt to speak to Pattie about the fact that she was holding me off and wouldn't come move in with me." Eric first wrote the song as a ballad, but Duane Allman helped him shape it into a rocker. The piano coda was composed by Derek and the Dominos drummer Jim Gordon. (Sadly, Jim suffered from schizophrenia and in 1983, he killed his mother with a hammer.) At seven minutes and four seconds, the song didn't get much radio play when it first came out. A year later, it was rereleased as a single and the world finally caught on. It's since become his most beloved song, and in this poll, it annihilated the competition. 

In This Article: Eric Clapton

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