Bob Marley and the Wailers: I Shot the Sherriff
Eric Clapton: I Shot the Sherriff
Eric Clapton established himself as a, perhaps the, guitar god with his work in Cream, Derek and the Dominos, and Blind Faith. So when he went solo, expectations were high. That’s why his version of I Shot the Sherriff was greeted with such derision and contempt by long-time fans. But was the song really such a departure? Consider: Clapton made his name with covers of classic blues songs, and part of his mission was always to encourage his fans to seek out the original versions and artists. With Sherriff, Clapton was asking his fans to do the same thing with Bob Marley and reggae. I would argue that reggae is a musical spiritual cousin to the blues. Both take a people’s grievances and provide a forum where they become a shared experience. Blues is more personal, while reggae is more political, but the communal experience is essential to both.
As for Clapton’s fans, there is no guitar solo in Sherriff. In fact, the only solo in either version is a brief organ solo at the end of the Marley. But, having said that, Clapton’s Sherriff sounds pretty good to me now. And, to the extent that it helped the world discover Bob Marley and reggae, I am grateful.