Meaning Layla by Eric Clapton & The Love Story Behind

Surely the Clapton-Boyd-Harrison love triangle did not seem so romantic to the friends of its participants. A girl is cheating on her husband with his friend… Agree, not the most beautiful situation. Song by Derek and the Dominos and Eric Clapton.

But thanks to the talent of Eric, who dedicated the incomparable song Layla to Patty, their relationship was remembered as a touching story of passionate love – even with a sad ending.

Eric Clapton and Patti Boyd love story

Perhaps not everyone knows what happened then, so I will briefly remind you. Patti Boyd was the wife of George Harrison of The Beatles. Clapton was close to Harrison and even helped him record While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

But this did not stop Eric from having an affair with Patti and after some time marrying her.

Clapton and Boyd’s relationship developed in front of Bobby Whitlock, one of the members of Derek and the Dominos, who was a friend of both Eric and George. Here is what he had to say about it:

I was there when they supposedly met secretly. But hiding well will not work if you are a world famous person. He was crazy about Patti, and I was dating her sister. All this happened to them, most likely, behind George’s back. Although George didn’t care. He said, “You can take her.” It sort of defuses the situation when Eric says, “I’m taking your wife.” And in response to him: “Take it.”

But the song Layla Clapton composed at a time when Patty was the wife of Harrison.

Eric Clapton and Patty Boyd

The Love Story of Layla song by Eric Clapton

In Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me, Boyd reminisced about the first time she heard Layla’s song:

We surreptitiously met in an apartment on the south side of Kensington. Eric Clapton asked me to come because he wanted me to listen to a new song he had written. He turned on the tape recorder, added sound, and played me the most compelling and touching song I had ever heard. It was Layla – about a man hopelessly in love with a woman who also loves him, but remains inaccessible. He played the tape to me two or three times and kept staring at my face all the time, wanting to see how I would react. The first thing I thought was: “Oh my God, everyone will understand that she is about me.

In The Guardian article, Patti Boyd described how she felt about the situation:

I wasn’t exactly thrilled when Eric wrote “Layla” while I was still married to George. I felt like I was being exposed. The song amazed and thrilled me because it was so passionate and incredibly dramatic, but I wanted to save my marriage. Eric openly declared his love. I rejected his advances for a long time. I didn’t want to leave my husband. But apparently when things went excruciatingly bad for George and I, that was the end of our relationship. We both had to move on.

The subsequent history of Clapton and Boyd is well known to everyone. They got married, but after a while their relationship deteriorated, Eric went to actress Lori Del Santo, and after ten years of marriage, they divorced Pati.

Harrison, who attended their wedding, even seems to be grateful to Clapton:

If not for Eric, we would have had to go through a lot of unpleasant things that divorce usually does not do without: squabbles, swearing, smashing plates and dividing property. And so she fell into reliable hands and, most importantly, she did not need to change her usual way of life: whiskey, social events, new cars and dresses, not the healthiest fun and music – everything is the same, but in other places and with a different musician.

In general, Eric and George remained friends.

Why is the song called Layla?

Eric Clapton took the name Layla from the old oriental legend “Layla and Majnun”, supposedly based on real events. It tells about the Bedouin poet Qais, who fell in love with the beautiful Layla. But she married someone else.

Mad with grief, Kais went into the desert and wandered there, dedicating songs to Leyla. When his beloved died, he also could not live.

Layla song recording

Eric Clapton recorded Layla with Derek and the Dominos. It was originally a quiet ballad, but then Clapton and Duane Allman composed the famous guitar riff, which noticeably “heavier” the song. When the composition was almost ready, Eric heard Jim Gordon playing a melody of his own composition on the piano, and convinced him to use this part in Layla.

Not everyone liked this idea. Here is what Whitlock said about her:

“I couldn’t stand her. The original “Layla” didn’t have a piano. When we recorded the song, we didn’t even think about the piano. Jim played it, and Eric said, “How about this – it’s not bad.” Jim is not a pianist. He plays so directly – everything is very neat. They wanted me to add feelings to it, so Jim recorded it, I recorded it, and Tom Dowd mixed them. These are two different records.

Be that as it may, now no one imagines the song “Layla” without a piano part.


The song was released as a single from the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). The audience met both this track and the whole disc with coolness. The song’s length made it unattractive to radio stations, and Clapton’s fans didn’t buy the album because his name was only on the back.

But in 1972, when Layla was released as a single from the collection The History of Eric Clapton, the song rose to number seven in the UK Singles Chart and to number ten on the Billboard Hot 100.

The blues-arranged acoustic version that Clapton performed at the MTV Unplugged concert was also released as a single, hit the charts, and was awarded a Grammy for Best Rock Song.

Layla is included in the lists of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Rolling Stone) and the 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll (VH1).

Layla video by Eric Clapton

As far as I know, there is no official video clip for the track. Let’s watch the next music video for the song Layla.

Interesting Facts

  • At the end of the song, Dwayne Allman played the sound of a bird’s cry on the guitar. This is a tribute to legendary jazzman Charlie “Bird” Parker.
  • Layla has been covered by the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • The piano coda from Layla is featured in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.
  • Andy Summers, guitarist for The Police and The Animals, named his daughter Layla after the song.

Layla Lyrics by Derek and the Dominos & Eric Clapton

What’ll you do when you get lonely
And nobody’s waiting by your side?
You’ve been running and hiding much too long.
You know it’s just your foolish pride.

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

I tried to give you consolation
When your old man had let you down.
Like a fool, I fell in love with you
Turned my whole world upside down.

Let’s make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane.
Please don’t say I’ll never find a way
And tell me all my love’s in vain.

Layla Lyrics – Eric Clapton Alternate

What will you do when you’re alone
And no one will wait for you near?
Too long you’ve been running and hiding
You know it’s all about your stupid pride

Layla, I’m on my knees because of you.
Layla, I’m begging, darling, please
Layla, dear, save me from disturbing thoughts.

I tried to comfort you
When your husband let you down
Like a fool I fell in love with you
And my whole life turned upside down

Let’s do our best in this situation
Until I completely lost my mind
Please don’t say I’ll never find a way
And don’t say all my love is in vain

Song quote

I love listening to her. She sounds like she’s not mine. It’s like I’m listening to someone I really like.

Eric Clapton

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