The Sad Story Behind Eric Clapton’s ‘Holy Mother’
Eric Clapton – aspirinsmoke /YouTube
Apart from being a true, living guitar hero, Eric Clapton is best associated with melancholic ballads that resonated with feelings of despair and pain. One example that occurs in our minds quite swiftly is his well-known hit, “Tears in Heaven,” a song he woefully dedicated to his son, Connor, who died at 4 years old.
A 53-story fall killed Conor while he was spending the morning at his mother’s New York City apartment. A janitor had accidentally left the window open while he or she was working inside the residence. This news devastated Clapton, who channeled that misery with “Tears of Heaven.” Perhaps a blessing and a curse, genuine artists find worst situations like these to help them create something meaningful and iconic. However, this wasn’t the first time Clapton channeled such tearjerking energy into developing a gem; years ago, he found himself begging for healing when he first started to write about his song, “Holy Mother.”
Eric Clapton was battling his demons, years before the death of his son. For a long time, his personal life had been dominated by drug and alcohol abuse, and he found no peace and comfort in his surrounding environment. However, a shining ray of purple light, courtesy of Prince, helped him rediscover himself once more when he decided to spend an evening away from all the foolishness.
In a Facebook post, Clapton wrote: “In the ‘80s, I was out on the road in a massive downward spiral with drink and drugs, I saw Purple Rain in a cinema in Canada. I had no idea who he [Prince] was, it was like a bolt of lightning! In the middle of my depression and the dreadful state of the music culture at that time it gave me hope, he was like a light in the darkness.”
“I went back to my hotel, and surrounded by empty beer cans, wrote ‘Holy Mother,’” he further wrote.
“Holy Mother” sees the musician desperately begging for the presence of the divine mother’s comfort. “Holy Mother, where are you? / Tonight I feel broken in two. / I’ve seen the stars fall from the sky. / Holy Mother, can’t keep from crying.” Expertly describing the anguish he is feeling for the night, Clapton isn’t afraid to sound vulnerable.
Clapton penned this with Stephen Bishop when the two got together and stayed at the former’s house in Hurtwood Edge. Bishop explained it all on his website, via Songfacts: “Eric asked me if I wanted to work on this idea he had called ‘Holy Mother,’” he said. “I went upstairs to my room and started working on the idea – played what I had for him and he worked on it later and he recorded it on his August album with Phil Collins producing.”
The original version is great, but the most famous version of the song was Clapton’s duet with Luciano Pavarotti in 1996. Check it out below.