The story behind Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears In Heaven’ has to do with a terrible tragedy involving his 4-year-old son, Connor Clapton. And while it’s a beautiful song, how it came to be is absolutely heartbreaking.
Eric Clapton is a rock and blues superstar from Ripley, UK. He is known for songs like Knockin On Heavens Door and Layla.
Eric was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, once as a solo artist and also as a member of his bands Yardbirds and Cream.
In 1985, Eric met Lory Del Santo, a famous Italian model, and a year later, the two had a son, Conor. Conor’s birth changed Eric’s life forever. Eric realized that he needed to cleanse his drug and alcohol lifestyle. “I couldn’t bear the thought that since he experienced enough of life to form an image of me, he would be an image of the man he was then,” Eric wrote in his autobiography.
Eric sobered up and stayed that way. While things didn’t work out for Eric and Lory, Conor remained the apple of her father’s eye. But a tragedy would later become the story behind Eric’s famous song, ‘Tears In Heaven’.
Tragic story behind ‘Tears In Heaven’
When Conor was four years old, he played hide-and-seek with her nanny in the New York apartment where she was staying with her mother while she eagerly awaited her father’s arrival. Eric and Conor had plans to go to lunch and the Central Park Zoo that day. Conor and Eric looked forward to their day together.
A janitor was finishing up some maintenance work on the apartment and stopped the babysitter briefly to warn her about an open window. At that instant, tragedy struck.
Lory recalled hearing a ghastly scream: “But it wasn’t Conor. It was the babysitter. I came into the room screaming more and more hysterically, ‘Where’s Conor, where’s Conor?’ Then I saw the open window, and I immediately understood. I felt all my strength leave me and I collapsed on the floor.”
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Four-year-old Conor fell to his death from a 53rd-floor window. The ambulance arrived, but there was no hope for the little boy.
“The first thing he knew was a phone call from his apartment,” Clapton recalled. “Lory was on the other end of the phone, and she was hysterical, saying he was dead. And she couldn’t let me believe it.”
The pain pours into the song
The funeral was held in Eric’s hometown two days before the singer’s 46th birthday. Famous artists like Phil Collins and George Harrison attended to show their respect for him.
After the funeral, Eric received a letter from Conor. He told her how much Conor missed Eric and wanted him to come.
To deal with his overwhelming pain, Eric first isolated himself for a time. Then he moved on to the song. He found solace in creating music. The songs were a way of coping and he never intended to share them. But eventually two songs he wrote for Conor during this period were released.
One was “Circus Left Town,” a song inspired by an outing he shared with Conor the night before Conor died. The other song was ‘Tears In Heaven’.