March 20, 1991: Eric Clapton Suffers The Greatest Tragedy Of A Parent’s Life
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A Father’s Grief, 28 Years On
For a parent to bury their child goes against the laws of nature. It’s supposed to be the other way around and when the child is extremely young, parents are faced with an unimaginable grief as they run through memories of events that will never happen while playing the events of that fateful day over and over again in their minds to the point of insanity, struggling to pinpoint where they could have stopped it from happening.
Rock legend Eric Clapton and his former partner Lory Del Santo faced every parent’s worst nightmare when on March 20, 1991 their 4-year-old son Conor fell to his death after falling from an open window in a high-rise New York condominium. Paralyzed by grief, Clapton turned to music, finding solace in one of the few vocal tracks he wrote and recorded for the 1991 film Rush and ultimately giving his pain a voice with “Tears In Heaven”.
Five Things You Didn’t Know About “Tears In Heaven”
- Clapton went nearly a decade without performing “Tears In Heaven,” saying that he “didn’t feel the loss anymore” and that he was finally able to make peace with Conor’s death.
- It was never even meant to be heard. Written as a way to do something constructive with the mind numbing grief, “Tears In Heaven” was solely for Eric, who had a lifetime of questions about the afterlife stemming from his grandfather’s death.
- It marked a turning point in Clapton’s life, seeing the legend turn to music for healing instead of drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.
- Following the release of “Tears In Heaven,” Clapton vowed to prevent other parents from experiencing his tragedy by appearing in PSAs calling for the childproofing of windows and staircases.
- Songwriter Will Jennings helped Eric Clapton write “Tears In Heaven” after the two teamed up to craft a song for the 1991 film Rush but initially protested when Clapton said, “I want to write a song about my boy,” saying that the subject matter was too personal.
A quiet, soaring track that finds Eric and songwriter Will Jennings exploring the afterlife and asking whether Conor would know his father when it’s time for Eric to join him, “Tears In Heaven” provided the outlet Clapton needed following the greatest tragedy he’s ever known and some of the most fierce critical acclaim of his career as listeners found themselves identifying with Eric’s grief. The song sailed to the top of the charts and dominated at the 1993 Grammy Awards, taking home the awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
As of 2003, Clapton ceased performing “Tears In Heaven” live, having found the peace he’d been searching for for the better part of a decade; it would be another decade before he resurrected it for his 50th anniversary world tour in 2013.