Eric Clapton’s 1992 hit Tears In Heaven was borne out of unbearably sad circumstances. The song is a tribute to love’s lasting powers and a lament for the death of Clapton’s four-year-old son, Conor, who died on 20 March 1991 when he accidentally slipped from the 53rd-floor window of a New York City apartment building.
“It was so painfully personal”
Clapton, who was elsewhere in New York when the tragedy happened, had the horrific task of making the identification at Lennox Hill Hospital’s mortuary. “I remember looking at his beautiful face in repose and thinking, This isn’t my son. It looks a bit like him, but he’s gone,” the former Cream star said later. The world-famous guitarist and his Italian actress girlfriend, Lory Del Santo, flew their son’s body back to England to be buried at Clapton’s hometown church, St Mary Magdalen, in Ripley, Surrey. The mourners included Phil Collins. Prince Charles sent a letter of condolence.
Though Clapton was unable to focus on music for some time, he eventually started strumming on a small Spanish guitar to ease his pain. As he thought about his son, the melody of Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers To Cross was floating around his mind.