Eric Clapton has given the world some of the most heart-wrenching hits of all time. Notably, one of his most legendary songs was inspired by the tragic demise of his toddler son in 1991.
Guitarist and singer Eric Clapton had a way of weaving emotions into his music, and every pluck of his guitar vibrated with life. Likewise, he brought several iconic songs to life with his hearty vocals and powerful lyrics.
His emotional songs should not come as a surprise, however, as he has a pool of emotion to reach into, having gone through numerous tragedies in his life, including the loss of his son as a toddler several decades ago. He shared the young lad with his former lover Lory del Santo.
Lory Del Santo is an Italian model and actress. Born in Veneto in 1958, Santo was raised by her mom after losing her dad in a car accident at the age of three.
The actress kicked off her television career as a teenager, appearing in the 1975 edition of “Festivalbar” at sixteen. The singing competition provided her with more opportunities.
Santo eventually relocated to Rome to further nurture her career, and later on, to Milan. Around that time, her acting career took off, and she appeared in a handful of comedies. She also embraced modeling, competing in the 1980’s Miss Universe competition.
SANTO AND CLAPTON’S RELATIONSHIP
While residing in Milan, the then-27-year-old Santo met Eric Clapton, who was forty at the time. They ran into each other during one of the music legend’s concerts held in Milan in October 1985.
They became smitten by each other instantly and kicked off an affair. Interestingly, the guitarist was still married to Pattie Boyd, ex-wife of the Beatles’ Harrison, but he didn’t seem to mind given their attraction for each other.
His marriage to Boyd ended in 1989. The woman filed for divorce after the blues legend confessed his affair with Santo to her and that they were expecting a child together.
Santo and Clapton’s affair yielded a son, Conor, who was born on August 21, 1986, in a private ward at the maternity wing of St. Mary’s Hospital. The songwriter, who had tried for years to have a child with Boyd to no avail, grew fond of the little boy instantly.
He fondly described his son as “the one thing in his life that good could ever come out of.” Although he and Santo never married, Clapton rented a house for the mother-son duo in the uptown area of Chelsea.
He performed his fatherly responsibilities, providing for the mom while spending time with his son and enjoying family outings. However, life had other plans for the burgeoning family.
Conor quickly grew into a bubbly kid and the apple of his dad’s eyes until death struck in the nineties, claiming the four-year-old’s life.
Conor died on March 20, 1991, after accidentally falling through an open bathroom window of his mom’s 53rd-floor apartment in Manhattan.
According to reports, the little boy threw himself down from the cantilevered window installed in the bathroom, which a janitor left open. He landed on the roof of a four-story building, dying instantly.
The youngster slipped away from the watchful eyes of his unsuspecting nanny while playing around the house moments before the tragedy. Also present in the apartment was the toddler’s mom, Lori Del Santo.
The “Tears In Heaven” crooner had a planned fun day out with his son and spent most of the day preparing for their adventurous visit to the Bronx Zoo. Sadly, those plans never came to fruition but were instead replaced by lifelong grief.
Upon learning of his son’s death, the blues legend immediately went cold. He recalled being in his hotel room, a few blocks away from Santo’s apartment, when he received the phone call that shattered his heart and changed his life.
The child’s mom sounded hysterical over the phone as she informed him their son was gone. No matter how much he willed himself not to believe it, he soon had to face the sad reality.
He reached the apartment at the speed of light and met several ambulances and emergency responders cluttered around. That was when he knew something had happened for real.
Walking into the apartment and seeing everyone desolated, Clapton admitted he felt like he walked into someone else’s life, a feeling that had plagued him ever since.
In his 2007 memoir, “Clapton: The Autobiography,” the icon credited his son with helping him beat his drug addiction completely. Having battled addiction for a while, Clapton struggled to become sober, and he only managed to kick his heroine-dependency by the late seventies.
However, his son’s birth triggered his eagerness to become a better person and the best father. Ultimately, that meant making sure his son never saw him wasted.
Hence, he quit other drugs, including cocaine and alcohol, and completed a life-changing stint in rehab. Staying clean for the next three years was a struggle, but he managed to achieve that just for his son.
When Conor passed away, the “Cocaine” singer was only three years sober. However, rather than a relapse, the tragedy gave him the strength and motivation to fully commit to his sobriety.
THE STORY BEHIND SOME OF THE BEST HITS
Another way Clapton coped with the tragedy was through music. Drawing inspiration from his tragedy, the rock guitarist wrote two powerful songs around that period.
The songs, “Tears In Heaven,” and “My Father’s Eyes,” eventually became two of his biggest hits. The heart-wrenching songs have become popular among pop-rock lovers, especially those that could relate to a painful loss.
“Tears In Heaven” especially sends one on an emotional journey, where they are left pondering what happens in the afterlife. Clapton admitted his powerful lyrics were not made for the public, as they only represented his grief.
However, he was eventually encouraged to add the track to the soundtrack he was working on for the movie “Rush.” He has been unstoppable ever since, with his past tragedy serving as a driving force.