Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: The Eric Clapton song "Tears in Heaven" is a tribute to Conor Clapton, Eric's pre-school son, who died in an accident in 1991.
Origins: On 20 March 1991 at
Conor was in the custody of his mother, Italian actress Lori Del Santo, and they were staying in the apartment during a visit to
The death of Conor Clapton was one of those accidents that seem so preventable with hindsight yet aren't imaginable until they happen. The housekeeper had just finished cleaning the window and left it open to air the room when Conor ran past him and fell out the
The death of his son had a deep impact on Eric Clapton. For nine months the grieving father concentrated on coming to terms with his loss rather than on performing. When he returned to the stage, his music had changed, becoming softer, more powerful, and more reflective. "Tears in Heaven" (composed by Eric Clapton and Will Jennings) was Clapton's way of pouring his grief and growing acceptance of Conor's loss into his music. The song was created for the 1991 film Rush, but in truth it was always about Conor
Other songs Clapton has written about Conor are "The Circus Left Town," which recalls the last time Clapton saw his son alive (they attended a circus the night before Conor's death), and "Lonely Stranger."
Even when all the facts are known about a nightmarish event (which was the case here: there was no mystery about Conor's death; no unresolved nagging questions which left part of the story unknown or unknowable), there always remains room for embellishments as people's memories work to insert details they unconsciously feel should be part of the account. It's at this point a news story crosses the line into the realm of folklore:
[Collected via e-mail, 1999]The above recollection presents Clapton and his boy as members of the same household (a living arrangement that clearly was not the case), a flourish which adds elements of poignancy to what really happened. In this version Clapton would not only have seen the boy fall to his death, but he would have been the catalyst that set this tragedy in motion. (His son was running to greet him, after all.) Other recollections place Clapton at a concert at the time of Conor's death, a detail that disapprovingly implies that if he'd been home watching over his son instead of performing for others, the accident wouldn't have happened. This too was not the case: Conor's fall occurred at eleven in the morning (a very odd hour to be giving concerts) and Clapton was at his hotel at the time. The boy also wasn't left unsupervised by a neglectful, career-driven father or abandoned to the mercies of paid servants who didn't adequately tend to him
I heard that his young son had a habit of running to the window of their house to greet his father upon his arrival home everyday, and one day the window happened to be open, so the little boy fell to his death.
The account has become part of an even stranger blurring of news coverage with remembered folklore :
[Collected via e-mail, 1999]Human memory is an amazing thing — it often takes two separate bits of remembered input that share one or more common elements and melds them to form a new "fact" that will henceforth be recalled as rock-solid truth. In this case, the shared elements of a New York City apartment and the death of a male child have injected the very real death of Conor Clapton into the apocryphal legend about a ghost boy who seems to appear in the film Three Men and a Baby. (That Three Men and a Baby was filmed on a soundstage in Toronto dissuades very few from believing some scenes were shot in a New York City apartment haunted by a dead child and that his image was captured in a few frames of the film.)
In the 3 men and a baby legend, I heard it was Eric Clapton's old apartment in NYC, and the little ghost boy is his son that fell out the window
Perhaps the legendary aspects of Conor Clapton's death are a reflection of our reluctance to accept that bad things
Barbara "falls like rain . . . or tears" Mikkelson
Eric Clapton biography
Last updated: 25 May 2007
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