Tears In Heaven was written by Eric Clapton and Will Jennings. This arrangement is by Bob Hooper.
Eric Clapton wrote this about his 4-year-old son Conor, who died when he fell out of a 53rd floor window in the apartment where his mother was staying in New York City. Clapton had one other child at the time: His daughter Ruth was born in 1987, the year after Conor was born.
Clapton wrote this with Will Jennings, who has written many famous songs from movies, including “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer And A Gentleman, and “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. Jennings wrote the lyrics to many of Steve Winwood’s hits and has also written with B.B. King, Roy Orbison, The Crusaders, Peter Wolf and many others. He told us:
“Eric and I were engaged to write a song for a movie called Rush. We wrote a song called ‘Help Me Up’ for the end of the movie… then Eric saw another place in the movie for a song and he said to me, ‘I want to write a song about my boy.’ 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 (‘Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees…’), even though I told him that it was so personal he should write everything himself. He told me that he had admired the work I did with Steve Winwood and finally there was nothing else but do to as he requested, despite the sensitivity of the subject. This is a song so personal and so sad that it is unique in my experience of writing songs.”
Clapton knew of Jennings from his work with Steve Winwood. Says Jennings: “Eric and Steve go back, they made that one record together years ago (with Blind Faith), and Eric followed all our writing from Arc Of A Diver, because he always kept up with Steve. We wrote an album called Talking Back To The Night that Steve and I did, and then the third album we wrote was the Back In The High Life album. So Eric knew about that, and he knew about the Crusaders things and the B.B. King things. He had said he always wanted to get together and write, so he called me for the film. Russ Titelman, who had produced the Back In The High Life album, was involved in the film, and that was the other connection.”
Jennings revised the lyrics as Clapton and his band worked on it in the studio. They had no idea it would be a huge hit. Says Jennings, “It was furthest through from my mind, really. I was so involved in the sensitivity of the subject, and I didn’t even think about that. I’m passionate about all the songs I write, but it was just in another place entirely, another category.”
“Tears in Heaven” is one of Clapton’s most successful songs, as it reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the U.S. The song also stayed three weeks as number 1 on the American adult contemporary chart in 1992.
It won Grammys in 1993 for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal. Clapton was nominated for 9 Grammys that year and won 6.
Clapton played an acoustic version on his 1992 MTV Unplugged special. The performance was made into a very successful album, featuring acoustic versions of “Layla” and “Before You Accuse Me.” The acoustic version was used on the B-side of the acoustic “Layla” single in 1992.