Eric Clapton dominated a field of mostly younger, lesser-known performers to collect six Grammys last night.

Just as Bonnie Raitt was honored three years ago, one of rock’s most respected artists received some belated appreciation.

Clapton, inducted earlier this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, had been recording for more than a quarter-century but only had two Grammys to show for it.

Ignored for such classic albums as “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” and “461 Ocean Boulevard,” Clapton finally was embraced by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. “Tears of Heaven” won record of the year and song of the year, and “Unplugged” was cited as album of the year.

His guitar playing in the mid-1960s inspired “Clapton is God” graffiti on the walls of London, but the graying 47-year-old performer was typically self-effacing last night. He insisted “Tears of Heaven” wasn’t the best song of the year and confessed he originally didn’t want “Unplugged” released.

Few others were surprised by the Clapton landslide though.

“I kept hearing Eric say that’s not the best song,” said country star Vince Gill, himself a Grammy-winning songwriter. “To me, it was the greatest song because of the sentiment and heart.”

The raucous Red Hot Chili Peppers broke into an a capella version of Clapton’s song backstage at the 35th Annual Grammy Awards.

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