Saturday, March 28, 1992

Eric Clapton reached #2 with “Tears in Heaven”

First posted 1/28/2021; last updated 2/27/2021.

Tears in Heaven

Eric Clapton

Writer(s): Eric Clapton, Will Jennings (see lyrics here)


Released: January 8, 1992


First Charted: January 11, 1992


Peak: 2 US, 11 CB, 3 RR, 13 AC, 9 AR, 5 UK, 12 CN, 37 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 3.3 US, 0.4 UK, 4.91 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 4.0 radio, 198.95 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Eric Clapton launched his career in the 1960s, making a name for himself with the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, and Blind Faith before launching his solo career in the ‘70s (and making an album under the Derek + the Dominoes banner). On the charts, he reached #1 in 1974 with his version of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.” His biggest selling song, however, came nearly two decades later with 1992’s “Tears in Heaven.” WK

The song peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won Grammys for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. It was originally featured on the Rush soundtrack, but then appeared on Clapton’s Unplugged album. The later is the best-selling album of Clapton’s career, selling over 25 million worldwide and winning the Grammy for Album of the Year.

Clapton had seen plenty of tragedy in his life, but the one-two punch of late 1990 and early 1991 might have been the most devastating. In August 1990, his friend and fellow musician Stevie Ray Vaughan and Clapton’s manager and two of his roadies were killed in a helipcoter accident. On March 20, 1991, his four-year-old son Conor died when he fell from a 53rd-floor window of a New York City apartment. WK

Clapton poured his grief into “Tears in Heaven.” The song was ambiguous enough that it worked in the context of the score he was crafting for the movie Rush about a narcotics agent who becomes an addict. He asked Will Jennings for help on the song. Jennings had worked with Steve Winwood and written the #1 movie songs “Up Where We Belong” for An Officer and a Gentleman and “My Heart Will Go On” for Titanitc. Jennings thought it was too personal and that Clapton should write it alone, but he relented. Clapton wasn’t sure he wanted to release the song, but was convinced by the Lili Zanuck, the director of Rush, that the song might help others cope with grief. SF


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