Eric Clapton Never Called Prince the World’s Best Guitarist
On April 21, 2016, British radio host Stig Abell tweeted, "Eric Clapton was asked about how it felt to be the world's best guitarist. His response: 'I don't know. Ask Prince.'" The comment was liked more than 14,600 times and retweeted by more than 12,700 people.
Snopes has investigated the matter, and has determined it to be false. Apparently it's a variation of a similarly false quote attributed to Jimi Hendrix about both Irish blues musician Rory Gallagher and Christian guitarist Phil Keaggy.
Clapton spoke much more personally about Prince two days after his passing. "I'm so sad about the death of Prince," he wrote on Facebook. "He was a true genius, and a huge inspiration for me, in a very real way. In the the '80s, I was out on the road in a massive downward spiral with drink and drugs. I saw Purple Rain in a cinema in Canada, I had no idea who he was, it was like a bolt of lightning! In the middle of my depression, and the dreadful state of the music culture at that time it gave me hope, he was like a light in the darkness."
He continued: "I went back to my hotel, and surrounded by empty beer cans, wrote 'Holy Mother.' I can't believe he's gone."
Clapton's words echoed what he said on a 1989 episode of the BBC's Desert Island Discs, where he shortlisted "Purple Rain" among tracks by Stevie Wonder and Muddy Waters, as well as a Puccini aria. Calling Prince a "life-saver," he added that Prince was "a reincarnation of Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix and James Brown in one. I thought that’s exactly what the world needed.”
But it wasn't until 2019 that the British guitar legend paid tribute to Prince in concert. Clapton played "Purple Rain" during the encores of two of his three nights at London's Royal Albert Hall. At all three, he performed the song inspired by Prince, "Holy Mother."