Ed Sheeran reveals Eric Clapton inspired him to be a musician then plays impromptu cover of 'Layla'
19 May 2023, 14:46
It's no secret how influential Eric Clapton has been for budding musicians over the years.
Listen to this article
Seen as one of the first 'Guitar Gods' of rock 'n' roll music in the 1960s and beyond, his virtuosity opened the door for new ways of playing the instrument.
Whether it was his brief stints with The Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, his short time in power blues trio Cream, in Blind Faith alongside Steve Winwood, or as a solo artist, he changed the way blues and rock music merged.
'Layla' has become one of Eric Clapton's most enduring hits and many believe it to be the greatest achievement of his illustrious career.
The song has taken on different lives as an infectious rock riff and later as a heartbreaking acoustic ballad with his lauded MTV Unplugged performance in the 1990s.
- Queen and David Bowie may have recorded two Cream covers, Roger Taylor reveals
- Global Awards 2022: Elton John and Ed Sheeran are among the winners
- Pattie Boyd opens up about "growing up" with former husband George Harrison
Released with his band Derek & The Dominos in 1970, it took nearly two years before Clapton's beloved track would become a top ten hit in the UK and the US.
One of the main reasons the song is so revered - aside from its central riff - is because it was written as an unrequited love song for Pattie Boyd whilst she was still married to his best friend, George Harrison.
But the song's quality has not been lost on newer generations, including Ed Sheeran who confessed that it was Clapton that inspired him to become a musician in the first place.
Eric Clapton - layla (live 2002)
The pop superstar was interviewed by US comedian and presenter on The Howard Stern Show where he made the revelation.
Stern asked Sheeran if he's ever met Clapton in person, and then Ed preceded to tell him about the first time he encountered his music.
It was Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee concert on June 4th 2002 where he first heard the riff to 'Layla' (in a performance where Clapton was joined by Phil Collins on drums) and quickly became obsessed with Eric Clapton.
After buying all of his records, Ed even bought a replica guitar of the same instrument Eric used for the Golden Jubilee concert where he played 'Layla' for Her Majesty.
He used it to perform on Later.. With Jools Holland one year, and received a surprise message from a certain hero of his afterwards.
"This guy does this amazing music programme in England called Jools Holland, and I played a Jools Holland show with that Eric Clapton guitar" Ed revealed.
"I remember waking up on New Years Day, as it aired on New Years Eve, and I got this email with a title that just said 'E' which just said 'nice guitar'".
It turns out Eric Clapton reached out, and a friendship between the two stars blossomed.
But it was 'Layla' that inspired Ed Sheeran to even pick up a guitar in the first place as an 11-year old boy.
When asked how he got started on the instrument, Ed told Howard Stern: "It was the first and only thing I could play on the guitar for a long time."
Stern then prods Sheeran by saying: "Can you still play it?" with Ed settling the listener's expectations by admitting: "I'm not the world's best guitar player.."
He then launches into the main riff with an impromptu performance of the iconic rock song.
After bringing his homage to a close, he qualifies it with Stern by confessing: "I'm viewed as not a great guitar player, so there will be guitar people around the world being like: 'What's he doing murdering this song'".
It's doubtful that many of Ed Sheeran's fans would have listened to Eric Clapton, but it shows that the guitar virtuoso's influence runs far and wide.
Who knows, maybe Ed could've inspired his fans to listen to Eric and influence a whole new generation of guitar players.
Ed Sheeran Says Clapton’s “Layla” Inspired Him to Be a Musician Before Playing a Bit of the Song