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20 of Eric Clapton’s Best Guitar Solos

A selection of 20 great solos by one of the most brilliant guitar practitioners.

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Eric Clapton Crossroads Festival

Any list of 20 great guitar solos by one of the most brilliant practitioners of the instrument is going to start some intense debate. So we hope you’ll enjoy and respond to our selection of 20 truly memorable solos by the peerless Eric Clapton.

It’s a non-chronological selection that spans well over 50 years of work by this great craftsman in no fewer than nine different recording environments. We have seven prime examples of Clapton’s solo work, from ‘Let It Rain’ on his first, eponymous album in his own name in 1970, all the way through to ‘Somebody’s Knockin’,’ one of two remakes from his great favourite J.J. Cale‘s songbook, on Eric’s current, 23rd studio album I Still Do.

Eric Clapton (1970)

That solo oeuvre is also represented by moments of guitar sorcery from such landmark albums as 461 Ocean Boulevard, Slowhand, Behind The Sun, Journeyman and the live set 24 Nights, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall and featuring the Jerry Lynn Williams song ‘Pretending.’

Of course, there’s the magnificent ‘Layla’ from Clapton’s Derek & the Dominos period, which also gives us ‘Bell Bottom Blues’ and the live version of ‘ Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad,’ recorded at the Fillmore. Clapton’s work as a highly-prized guest player is reflected in The Beatles‘ sublime ‘ While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and a great highlight from Roger Waters’ The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking.

From Clapton’s days with John Mayall‘s Blues Breakers there’s ‘Have You Heard’ and ‘Key To Love,’ and four celebrated landmarks from the all-too-short era of the quintessential blues-rock power trio, Cream. Blind Faith‘s only album offers up ‘Presence of the Lord,’ and back on stage, Eric is in blistering form with Delaney and Bonnie on ‘I Don’t Want To Discuss It’ and with the Yardbirds, back where it all began in 1964.

We’d love to know which other Clapton solos you cherish, and which would go on your own playlist of the best guitar work by one of the true greats.

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50 Comments

50 Comments

  1. Francis

    June 17, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Spoonfull

  2. Anthony Ramsey

    June 17, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    “Go Back Home” from Stephen Stills first solo album!

    • toban

      June 18, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      Nice!

  3. jeff sarrow

    June 18, 2016 at 3:07 am

    Spoonful from Wheels of Fire. One of the greatest instrumental jams in history.

  4. Derek Abbott

    June 18, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    I love to listen to “Teasing” on the double album “The History of Eric Clapton”, also “Let it Grow” on another album, (I’ve so many I can’t remember which one), hell, I like everything he’s done, seen him 4 times, twice in Manchester, once in London, Royal Albert hall with Michael Kamen, (taped from radio) and Liverpool Echo Arena.
    He’s also on the last track on a Santana album.

  5. Pieter

    June 19, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Jack Bruce Ships in the night.

    • tim

      June 23, 2016 at 11:55 pm

      May not be one of his best, but surely one of his most memorable and climaxes that song.
      “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” from Dylan’s 30th Anniversary changed the song for me; a favorite from Freewheelin’ to a new level as a blues tune. Or “Yer Blues” from The Rolling Stones’ Rock’n’Roll circus. The jams on All Things Must Pass. Would rather see a list of 20 soloes not from an Eric Clapton album.

  6. David

    June 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    His work with George Harrison on Devil’s Radio. With Cream on Badge.

  7. Bevan

    June 21, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    Where`s Holy Mother???

  8. Jeff

    June 21, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    Eric doesnt have a solo on “Layla”, just saying. Most of the the good guitar work on “Layla” is Dusne Allman, plus the riff is a duet with Duane. The lead melody is Duane. The solo section is Duane…and the most noticable and heard guitar parts of the back end/coda are also Duane’s parts. Yes Eric lays down 4-5 tracks on the front end but they are mixed so softly you barely hear them. His low harmonic, high harmonic, rhythm tracks are all underneath and should be re released at some point. Both sides of Layla could and should be re released atleast three different ways. It should be remixed more and heard as a backing track, an instrumental jam and the song shoukd be released by isolated tracks. Untill then you will never here Layla for what she really is. I have a copy of the track sheet. Track by track instrument by instrument. I have mapped out atleast three remixes per side. Front end/back end. Universal really should explore releasing Layla in different ways.

  9. Bernd

    June 22, 2016 at 7:02 am

    I particularly like the version of Double Trouble on the live album ‘Just One Night’.
    Rather than choosing Forever Man from ‘Behind the Sun’, I would have gone for Just Like a Prisoner.

  10. Adrian Powell

    June 24, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Just listen to the sheer intensity and feel of ‘ Have you ever loved a Woman ‘ on the original release after the ‘ Layla’ album. Extraordinary!

    • larry

      October 14, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      his best

    • gary

      December 3, 2018 at 12:45 am

      it will make you cry

  11. HerbieGrandma

    June 30, 2016 at 1:51 am

    Crossroads

  12. Will

    July 9, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    Can I get an “amen” for the pure blistering prowess of I Don’t Wanna Discuss it with Delany and Bonnie?

    • hal

      December 1, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      Great solo (very Stones-like). Now, what was the influence? Did Clapton influence Keith Richards or vice-versa?

  13. Rich

    August 7, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    The solo in Forever Man is perfect. Doesn’t get any better.

  14. Steve Murchake.

    August 7, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    You don’t want much. Over 50 years in the field…you couldn’t fit his greatest hits in a 10 album set. Just go back to your old vinyl, tapes, CD’s and put it together on your hand held.

  15. Michael Gorman

    August 8, 2016 at 6:34 am

    Clapton’s solos as recorded include some remarkable performances, to speak of ‘the best’ is more akin to the sporting arenas – surely it is always a matter of how the listener responds individually to each setting, how each solo expresses a given set of emotional/musical experiences? For me the Blues numbers contain much of his finer moments, the sheer level of understanding for the Blues is pretty well unmatched among white guitar players. Often Clapton’s guitar work is working to support and embellish a given song, he has remarked previously that he prefers being among the ‘sidemen’ rather than a spotlighted ‘star’ – and this is characteristic of many creative and genuine musicians, who seek to serve ‘The Music’ and not merely promote their Ego & vanity. I love most of Eric Clapton’s Guitar work, it is a great gift to us all.

  16. MichaP

    October 14, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    “White Room” on “24 Nights”. The perfect solo!

  17. Jim

    October 14, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    “Blues Power”

  18. Jan P Therkelsen

    October 14, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Great solo on Roger Waters, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking

  19. Tom Goddard

    October 14, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    The most glaring omission is Just Like a Prisoner.

  20. Don

    October 15, 2016 at 1:25 am

    Anyday 🙂

  21. Ammar Akouri

    October 15, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Not including White Room or Spoonful in Wheels Of Fire grants me the right to say that whoever made this list hasn’t listened enough to Clapton. Go search for the songs behind the graffiti (Clapton is God) that appeared in England during Cream years and maybe you’ll know something or two about Clapton. Cheers

  22. Toni Vines

    October 29, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Have You Heard from the ‘Beano’ album!

  23. Dave Yoxall

    October 29, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Layla is one stunning piece of music, and has always been one of my faves …. but I’ve always wondered – how much was Eric and how much was Duane???

  24. Tom Barbaro

    October 29, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Bottle of Red Wine from Live Dominos

  25. A W

    December 12, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Try ” River of Tears” from the “One More Car One more Rider” Live Album…That album could be a best of…it’s a masterpiece and often overlooked

  26. Carsten Christensen

    March 1, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Eyesight to the blind from The Who Tommy album

  27. AlvisRocks

    June 18, 2017 at 10:27 am

    On the live Bluesbreakers LP there is a version of Stormy Monday that is almost completely instrumental.
    Clapton plays over the entire piece, building from the lower range in the first chorus, up through to the middle range in the second, and ends on a fiery, blistering barrage of double stops as Mayall comes in on vocals on the last verse.

    I’ve studied Clapton and played Clapton solos all my life and I will tell you that THIS is his greatest masterpiece- not to argue that the other choices here aren’t good choices.

  28. Stephen

    June 20, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Four beautiful bars in the middle of Better Make It Through Today, on There’s One In Every Crowd, 1975.
    Clapton made an album expressly not to be a guitar hero, and yet he gets more emotion from these four bars – it captures his inimitably sad style at it’s best.

  29. Just Testing

    June 26, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Good, but not peerless!

  30. Justo Carlos Hernández Rdz.

    July 2, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    I’m not agree, how about: Goodbye December, Floating Bridge anda the superb “B minor Blues Jams”

  31. Mark S.

    September 1, 2017 at 1:56 am

    Hideaway from Blues Breakers, Sittin’ on top of the World LIVE from Goodbye & the Saturday Night Live performances, a blistering Pretending, No Alibis & a heartfelt Wonderful Tonight

  32. Vic Lund

    September 1, 2017 at 3:13 am

    the interplay with B.B. on “Come Rain or Come Shine” is one of my favoriites

  33. JD Smith

    September 2, 2017 at 5:26 am

    “Got To Get Better In A Little While”-Fillmore East 10/23/70. I was there.!!!

  34. chris neale

    June 17, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    Good to see the dominos live Why does love got to be so sad included but the shorter version on the original album is, in my opinion, the best recorded Clapton playing ever!

  35. Nigel M Bishop

    August 4, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    What about Old Love on Unplugged?

  36. facofone

    September 7, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    you guys should really study some Eric Clapton before you make such a list. You are so commercial its pathetic. You have no clue on the depth of Claptons guitar work. Buy yourself some live Cream vols one and two and start listening and learning. You really have no clue.

  37. Grba

    October 10, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    There are solos that are finished at the very first tone – or at least they are enough as such. All the rest in solo is merely paying respect to musical metrics and structure and therefore needed. Such solos are the best and there are not very much of them in popular music.

    Having said that, I urge you to remember THAT first tone of the solo in “Old Love” on the 24 Nights album. For me that is the best single tone Eric Clapton delivered in his whole phonography.

  38. Eddy Gugliotta

    October 11, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    It’s OK, but the pick is highly commercial and People Pleaser. He has many better solos of live performances, that excel this one by far. Maybe next one should be “The 20 best Obscure Clapton’s solos”.

  39. Jeff

    October 27, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    I can’t believe you’ve left off two of the classiest blues solos Eric has recorded. 1. Old Love is a beauty and 2. Rambling On My Mind/Have You Ever Loved a Woman from Just One Night…his best in my opinion.

  40. Rich Curtis

    October 27, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    I own practically every album Clapton was associated with, from his years with the Yardbirds, the Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Derek & the Dominos, the Rainbow Concert album with Pete Townsend, Ginger Baker & several others, his solo albums (studio & “live”), the Concert for Bangladesh lp with his friend George Harrison & many others, each of the Crossroads benefit albums (and the DVDs), etc.
    This 20 song playlist is great, however, there are some gems not found on this list. Of course, that’s to be expected, considering the massive array of songs he’s done.
    There’s quite an incredible playlist, containing blues songs by dozens of other artists (I believe it had 82 songs). I don’t know if it’s part of this article or not. Although it wouldn’t appear to be part of this story.
    Anyway, there are some excellent blues songs that I’d have to include on it, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. Songs by Taj Mahal, Luther Allison, Magic Sam, Luther Johnson, Joe Bonamassa, Tinsley Ellis, Devon Allman, Derek Trucks Band, BB Chung King & the Buddaheads, Indigenous, etc.

  41. Roger Peek

    December 2, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Apart from Cream live standouts like “Spoonful” and “Sweet Wine”, his guest appearance at Dylan’s 30th celebration at MSG, where in my opinion he came offstage owning “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”

  42. Mike Kelsey

    December 2, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    The solo on Let it Rain is Stephen Stills.

  43. Tom Goddard

    December 3, 2018 at 1:13 am

    So, so many left off the list that are above several put on the list. My top nominee is Just Like a Prisoner, studio version.

  44. Stephen Hall

    December 3, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    Agree lots of great work
    Though I am astonished nobody has listed the live version of
    ‘Sleepy Time Time’

    This is a standout track

  45. Nate

    March 6, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    5-5-2018

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