The Song That Eric Clapton Refused To Play Live Because His “Life Is Different Now”

Most fans of singer/songwriter Eric Clapton have heard the song “Tears In Heaven” and know the story behind it. But for those who don’t, the heartwrenching and beautiful track is about the unexpected death of Clapton’s four-year-old son, Conor. It’s a brave and vulnerable piece of work, and Clapton’s 1992 MTV Unplugged performance of the track made it to his Unplugged live album in 1992.

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“Tears In Heaven” is one of Clapton’s best-selling singles in the US, where it peaked at no. 2 on the Hot 100 chart. It also charted high on the UK charts as well and went on to earn three different Grammy awards.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime song, and not necessarily an easy one to listen to if you know the story behind it. So, it’s pretty clear why Clapton decided to take a break from performing the song live for a while.

Why Eric Clapton Stopped Playing The Song “Tears In Heaven”

Eric Clapton’s son, Conor, passed away after accidentally falling from the window of a New York City high-rise apartment that belonged to a friend in 1991. The tragedy led Clapton to isolate himself for a while (understandably) before returning to work. He was working on the soundtrack to the 1991 film Rush at the time that he wrote “Tears In Heaven” with Will Jennings.

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“[Eric Clapton] said to me, ‘I want to write a song about my boy,’” said Jennings in a 2006 interview. “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, even though I told him that it was so personal he should write everything himself. […] This is a song so personal and so sad that it is unique in my experience of writing songs.”

Despite the success of the song, Clapton needed to take a break from playing it once the 2000s rolled around. According to Clapton himself, the painful memories were too exhausting to relive each night he’d perform the track. He also had moved forward in the years since his son’s passing, and didn’t feel like he could connect with “Tears In Heaven” anymore.

“I didn’t feel the loss anymore, which is so much a part of performing those songs,” Clapton told The Associated Press. “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. My life is a different life now.”

Eric Clapton eventually brought the song back to his setlists in 2013, and he sparingly performs it live today.

Photo by Stephen Lovekin

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