The Story Behind Eric Clapton's Most Personal Song

Jan 31, 2016 By Michael W. Pirrone

In a moment that people thought the world would never forget, a renowned celebrity lost everything. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 25 years. The tragic day in 1991 that Eric Clapton lost his son Conor was powerful for so many reasons. For many it was because of just how close people felt with someone of such fame. For others it was because of how senseless the death was. How in an instant, through no true negligence, a life was gone. In some ways it was a combination. The senselessness coupled with the celebrity. If it could happen to Eric Clapton, it could happen to anyone.

Truly, it could happen to anyone. And Eric Clapton has worked hard in the years since to ensure it happens to as few people as possible.

Eric devoted many hours to improving laws regarding child safety, and even recorded a PSA for the State of New York, urging parents to take proper precautions.

This tragedy was something many people had trouble dealing with, due to its sudden and very accidental nature.

All it took was a moment. The housekeeper had left the window open after cleaning to air out. Because there was nothing to prevent it, an energetic child in the midst of a game of hide and seek was out of the window before anyone could even react.

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But of course nobody had more trouble dealing with the loss than Conor’s parents, Eric Clapton and Lory Del Santo.

Conor had played a huge role in Eric’s life since his birth. The musician was something of a tortured artist in his youth and had struggled through the years with addiction. Drugs, alcohol, he had gone through it all. When Conor was born, Eric was free of drugs but was still drinking quite heavily. But seeing his baby child, he knew he needed to make a change. And he did. He kicked the habit and went on to have some of the happiest years of his life with the young boy until this awful event.

Adding both solace and more heartache to the situation was the letter Clapton received shortly after his son’s funeral. It was from Conor himself, and detailed his love for his dad and how much he enjoyed the time he spent with him.

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While Eric will never, ever forget his young son and the great loss he suffered, with time he begun to come to terms with it. In a 2005 interview with Mojo, Clapton said, 

“I think it won’t make sense to me for maybe another ten years. You know when you can look back and say, ‘Oh, that’s why I did that.’ Someone once pointed out to me that the time I began taking heroin really heavily coincided with the death of my grandfather. Back then, I didn’t equate the two at all. The same could be said about the death of my son in 1991 and me getting into the weirdest relationships for the rest of the ’90s before I met my present wife. I never saw a connection until recently. I was lost again. Looking for something. Probably for mothering. Now I can see, ‘Yeah, you really didn’t do very well coming out of that.’ Although I was able to express it musically.”

And express it musically he did. Although written for a film called Rush, the song Tears in Heaven is 100 percent about Conor and Eric Clapton’s love for his lost son. It’s important to keep in mind the background of this famous song, as it’s truly as important as the song is beautiful. And if we forget moments like that awful one in 1991, there’s a terrible chance we might forget why it’s so important to have properly secured windows, doors, and anything else you simply can’t teach a toddler not to play with.

Via: Little Things

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