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This week, I want to reveal to you my greatest fear. It’s that something bad will happen to my children. In fact, if I’m honest with you, as far as I’m concerned, no other fear comes even close. The thought of that is unbearable. I don’t know how people who lose their children ever recuperate. I would probably lose my mind. An acquaintance, who lost his son a few years ago, told me when I ran into him at the mall the other day that his life hasn’t been the same since. He and his wife got divorced shortly after the tragedy. Even now that he is remarried and his new wife is expecting their first child, he admitted that he still thinks about the son he lost every day. “I wish this new baby is going to be a girl. I feel guilty enough as it is,” he explained.

Our track of the week, Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven,” is inspired by the death of Clapton's four-year-old son, Conor, who fell to his death from the 53rd-floor window of a friend’s New York apartment building in 1991. In numerous interviews over the years, Clapton has stated that his way of dealing with his grief was to use music as a healing agent. After taking a short break from everything and isolating himself from the rest of the world, Clapton began working again, writing music for the film Rush. “Tears In Heaven” was finished during these writing sessions and even though the song was commissioned for the movie, Clapton admitted in an interview the following year that the tune “could be taken to be about Conor.”

Here’s how the co-author of “Tears In Heaven,” Will Jennings, remembers the writing process of the song.

[Clapton] said to me, "I want to write a song about my boy." Eric had the first verse of the song written, which, to me, is all the song, but he wanted me to write the rest of the verse lines and the release ("Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees..."), even though I told him that it was so personal he should write everything himself. He told me that he had admired the work I did with Steve Winwood and finally there was nothing else but to do as he requested, despite the sensitivity of the subject. This is a song so personal and so sad that it is unique in my experience of writing songs.

The song became Clapton's best-selling single in the United States and reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. It went on to win three Grammy Awards for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Song Of The Year, and Record Of The Year. However, the achievements didn’t end with the three Grammy Awards but continued into the new millennium. In 2004, the Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Tears in Heaven" 362nd on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Strangely enough, it was around this time that Clapton stopped performing “Tears In Heaven” at his concerts for nearly a decade. He has explained his decision to do so by stating that:

I didn't feel the loss any more, which is so much a part of performing those songs. I really have to connect with the feelings that were there when I wrote them. They're kind of gone and I really don't want them to come back, particularly.

“Tears In Heaven” is a beautiful acoustic ballad with a gorgeous arrangement featuring steel guitar, accordion, bells and keyboards. It’s one of those songs that’s very difficult to dislike. It’s got a hauntingly brilliant melody and the production is very tasteful, first-rate. When you add the tragedy that inspired the tune and Clapton’s heartfelt vocal performance to the mix you obviously have a timeless classic in your hands. And the lyrics? Well, they are incredibly touching.

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?
I'll find my way through night and day
'Cause I know I just can't stay here in heaven

“Tears In Heaven” is a song I keep returning to from time to time, if for no other reason than to count my blessings. Life is strange. When I first heard the track in 1992, I was a twenty-year-old young man barely out of high school. The song moved me deeply and I felt awful about Clapton losing his son but it didn’t have the same effect on me as it does now that I am a father. When I listen to it at night after my sons are asleep, I get teary-eyed and find myself panicking a bit. What if this happened to one of my kids? At this point, I usually get up and go check on them. I give them a kiss on the cheek, tuck them in, sit by their bedside for a minute and feel like the luckiest man in the world to have them safe at home with me.

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About the curator - Tommi Tikka

Tommi Tikka - Music to Curator

Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.

 

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