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Rock Star : DJ :: 1960's : 2010's Part 3

Updated: Apr 6, 2022


Calvin Harris : Eric Clapton


In trying to find the right genre, the right chemistry, the right band, musicians often play with a variety of artists looking for the right sound, but part of that process is completely on the artist themselves and what they are able to do with the talent that is given to them. The reality may be that even though having a good backing band or featuring a talented singer can help to make a song good, but rare is the talent that can constantly produce hits with artists regardless of who they are.


Clapton was the original musical celebrity collaborator, the guy who everyone wanted to play with which leads to the comparison with Calvin Harrison because it doesn’t seem there is any other DJ who has worked with more high profile stars in the last decade than Harris. Both with the most extensive list of song credits to their name that if there was an IMDB for musical collaborations they would have a page like Kevin Bacon’s, what’s as impressive, is the list of people they’ve worked with, the most quintessential people of their time, and it proves them both to be at the top, at least in the realms of popularity.

The only real difference I see comes at the beginning of their careers, where Harris had to use his own vocals to create tracks because he was unknown and couldn’t get better talent. Clapton, on the other hand, wasn’t the signer in his first few bands, being known as a prodigy on guitar he wasn’t thought of in that way, but, one could argue, it allowed him to grow into the complete artist he was to become, the singer, the songwriter, the bluesman the world had been waiting for. The reality is they are easily two of the most influential artists of their time they can bring anyone to sing along whether it be an old drunk redneck singing along to “Cocaine” or a drunk college chick singing along to “Summer”, it’s always truly from the heart.


It would be pertinent to list their references, but to be honest it’s just daunting for both artists. Clapton started off in bands like the Yardbirds and was essentially a right-hand man to the Beatles while Harris by his second album was already gaining popularity with Rhianna, Florence Welch and Katie Perry. It’s almost disingenuous to note the cache a good reputation can lead to because it over simplifies the fact that both are so insightful that they always knew the right people to work with, a skill that led to no shortage of hits.

It’s no mystery that each artist has achieved commercial popularity and it could even argue that it was, if anything to their own fault because, from an artist’s perspective, the songs are essentially perfect. They ebb and flow well and find their way so naturally that whether it be a pop anthem or a blues solo, it always fits in the realm of the song. They seem to both be truly blessed with a good ear, as it isn’t always the most outrageously face-melting stuff that is so impressive but the more subtly on point songs that are so impressive, songs like “Bounce” or “Feels” for Harris and “White Room” or the acoustic version of “Layla” for Clapton. Layla is also a song which brings up a less notable comparison in that both had some high profile relationships as well, Clapton falling in love with and eventually marrying George Harrison’s wife, and Harris dating the most breakup artist of all time in Taylor Swift.


It’s surely now more common for a producer/DJ to work with a multitude of artists, but it’s hard not to see Calvin Harris as the poster child for that in this era, and really you could say he was just following in Eric Clapton’s footsteps. They’ve both had some classics, some songs that just may go down in history, and, hell, they’re both from the same island too.

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