Thus, when making a “top ten” list for Eric Clapton Songs, it’s easy to name off the hits. Everyone loves ‘After Midnight,’ ‘White Room,’ ‘Cocaine,’ and ‘Sunshine Of Your Love.’ Readers won’t find any of those songs on this list. This list does not include tracks from Clapton’s band efforts, either. No, these are the ten best songs that he wrote in his solo career.
Top 10 Eric Clapton Songs
# – 10 ‘My Father’s Eyes’ (‘Pilgrim’ / 1998)
1998’s Pilgrim was a commercial success for Clapton, but critics panned it. It’s overproduced, a tad lazy, and four or five songs too long. (That said, Clapton did show Bob Dylan how to properly tackle ‘Born in Time’ on it.) The opening, ‘My Father’s Eyes,’ is quite a good track, surprisingly. It’s emotional, funky, and sharply produced. Clapton took what he learned from covering tracks like ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ and applied it to his own creativity for this tune. The rest of the album may be rather abysmal, but the opening is a lately bloomed hallmark of his solo career.
# 9 – ‘Signe’ (‘Unplugged’ / 1992)
‘Signe’ was a track that Slowhand wrote while at sea. Its easy-going, oceanic atmosphere is immediately welcoming, showcasing Clapton’s incredible ability to harness that type of sound in instrumental songwriting. The song ultimately acted as the opening to his exceptional ‘Unplugged’ album for MTV in the early 90s. It’s a lovely ditty that highlights Clapton’s finesse as a performer without making him appear ostentatious or braggadocious.
# 8 – ‘Next Time You See Her’ (‘Slowhand’ / 1975)
Speaking of ‘Slowhand,’ ‘Next Time You See Her’ is one of the most delightful songs about hatred you’ll ever hear. Clapton really hates the guy who stole girl. More so, she took everything, including his car. Released in 1975, the track is a bit of a spiritual companion to ‘If You See Her Say Hello,’ which Bob Dylan released the same year. Unfortunately, the majority of the landmark record was penned by others. ‘Next Time You See Her’ is a wonderfully fantastic piece that Clapton did pen all by himself, though.
# 7 – ‘Let It Grow’ (‘461 Ocean Boulevard’ / 1974)
1974’s 461 Ocean Boulevard is another classic Clapton record. It’s also another album of him interpreting songs others wrote. Fortunately, the stunning ‘Let It Grow’ was Clapton’s own creation. The dichotomy between ‘Let It Grow’ and ‘Next Time You See Her’ is particularly poignant in hindsight, perhaps lending insight into Clapton’s rocky romantic life throughout the decade. Instrumentally, ‘Let It Grow’ takes advantage of a simplistic atmosphere dominated by acoustic guitars and a slide guitar. It’s a killer ballad and one of the finest Eric Clapton Songs.
# 6 – ‘Back Home’ (‘Back Home’ / 2005)
In 2005, Clapton returned to mostly-original songwriting with his album Back Home. The title track, which also acts as the finale, is the strongest pursuit of the entire collection. Right before the release of this record, Clapton was highly lauded for his Robert Johnson tribute, ‘Me & Mr. Johnson.’ ‘Back Home’ seems to take a cue from its predecessor, effortlessly melding Clapton’s signature ease with some delta blues musings.
# 5 – ‘Slow Down Linda’ (‘Money and Cigarettes’ / 1983)
Money and Cigarettes is an impressive record in Clapton’s catalog that often gets overlooked. Chock-full of content written by the man himself, the album captures Clapton in his element and in his prime. While his generational counterparts were bending to the whims of the commercial masses and writing highly overproduced, synthesized 80s material, Clapton decided to record a remarkably raw blues rock album. ‘Slow Down Linda’ is a defining highlight of it. Goodness, what a guitar section! Dirty, bluesy, and authentic. Clapton is matched by a very sharp backing band, too.
# 4 – ‘I Can’t Stand It’ (‘Another Ticket’ / 1981)
Clapton’s whole solo catalog is fairly ‘mellow.’ When he exited the 1960s, he never really returned to the hard rock and roll he was born out of. ‘Another Ticket,’ yet another critically divisive record, continued the long run of albums that many critics perceived as ‘lazy.’ They’re not entirely wrong. Clapton got stuck in his ways and didn’t experiment much, nor did he write much. The slick, suave ‘I Can’t Stand It,’ is, however, the exception. The passion of the song is exactly what critics argued Clapton was losing in his music during this time. He phoned a lot of music in throughout his career. ‘I Can’t Stand It’ was not phoned in.
# 3 – ‘Wonderful Tonight’ (‘Slowhand’ / 1975)
‘Wonderful Tonight’ is important for a few reasons. One, it’s an immensely beautiful love song that captured so many realistic, honest emotions. Second, it proved that Clapton’s songwriting could stand tall against all of the people he was choosing to cover. ‘Slowhand,’ as aforementioned, isn’t actually a very ‘original’ record. ‘Wonderful Tonight’ makes a bold statement: that Eric Clapton could write a song that would effortlessly meld into a masterpiece mostly penned by the likes of JJ Cale and other collaborators. (Bear in mind that ‘Slowhand’ still has incredible creative merit. We’re just talking about Clapton’s clout as a solo songwriter.)
# 2 – ‘The Shape You’re In’ (‘Money and Cigarettes’ / 1983)
‘The Shape You’re In,’ another track off Money and Cigarettes is one of the greatest blues rock songs Clapton ever wrote. This hard-hitting track, while considered by many to be a deeper track in his catalog, shines bright amongst a list of tracks that are penned entirely by Clapton. Again, ‘Money and Cigarettes’ is a sublime home to some of Clapton’s most unbridled creativity.
# 1 – ‘Tears in Heaven’ (‘Unplugged’ / 1992)
While ‘Tears in Heaven’ was written for the ‘Rush’ soundtrack in 1991, its defining performance is on ‘Unplugged.’ To put it bluntly, ‘Tears in Heaven’ is Eric Clapton’s masterpiece. One hundred years from now, it will, or at least, it should be, synonymous with his legacy – even more so than anything he wrote for the Dominos or Cream. Why? Because it’s the most heart-wrenching, tear-jerking, genuine journey through Clapton as a person – not a celebrity.
When Conor Clapton abruptly and tragically died, Eric Clapton’s life got turned upside down. His son was four years old and fell over fifty stories out of an open window. The kind of heartbreak that must occur from that is unfathomable. ‘Tears in Heaven’ attempts to quantify that pain in a mystifying way. It’s not just the best song Clapton ever wrote, but one of the best he ever performed. It stands powerfully alongside every other legendary performer Clapton covered – Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy… the whole lot of them. It’s Clapton’s talent as songwriter and musician in one track. That’s admirable on a myriad of levels.
Updated Nov 11, 2020