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"Layla" is a song written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, originally released by their blues rock band Derek and the Dominos, as the thirteenth track from their album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (November 1970). It is considered one of rock music's definitive love songs,[1] featuring an unmistakable guitar figure played by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, and a piano coda that comprises the second half of the song. Its famously contrasting movements were composed separately by Clapton and Gordon.

The song was inspired by the classical poet of Persian literatureNizami Ganjavi's The Story of Layla and Majnun, a copy of which Ian Dallas had given to Clapton. The book moved Clapton profoundly, as it was the tale of a young man who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful, unavailable woman and who went crazy because he could not marry her.[2][3] In his autobiography, Clapton states, "Ian Dallas told me the tale of Layla and Manjun [sic], a romantic Persian love story in which a young man, Manjun [sic], falls passionately in love with the beautiful Layla, but is forbidden by her father to marry her and goes crazy with desire." (Clapton, Eric. Clapton: The Autobiography. New York: Broadway Books, 2007 at p. 107.) The song was further inspired by Clapton's then unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend and fellow musician George Harrison. "Layla" was unsuccessful on its initial release.[4] The song has since experienced great critical and popular acclaim, and is often hailed as being among the greatest rock songs of all time. Two versions have achieved chart success, the first in 1972 and the second (without the piano coda) twenty years later as an acoustic "Unplugged" performance. In 2004 it was ranked #27 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", and the acoustic version won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.

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 [hide*1 Background

Background[edit]Edit

In 1966 George Harrison married Pattie Boyd, a model he met during the filming of A Hard Day's Night. During the late 1960s, Clapton and Harrison became close friends. Clapton contributed uncredited guitar work on Harrison's song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on The BeatlesWhite Album, and Harrison co-wrote and played guitar pseudonymously (as L'Angelo Misterioso) on Cream's "Badge" from Goodbye. However, trouble was brewing for Clapton. Between his tenures in Cream and Blind Faith, he fell in love with Boyd.[5][page needed]

The title, "Layla", was inspired by the story of Layla and Majnun, by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi.[6] When he wrote "Layla", Clapton had been told the story by his friend Ian Dallas,[5] who was in the process of converting to Islam. Nizami's tale, about a moon princess who was married off by her father to someone other than the one who was desperately in love with her, resulting in Majnun's madness, struck a deep chord with Clapton.[7]

Boyd divorced Harrison in 1977 and married Clapton in 1979 during a concert stop in Tucson, Arizona.[8][9] Harrison was not bitter about the divorce and attended Clapton's wedding party withRingo Starr and Paul McCartney.[10] During their relationship, Clapton wrote another love ballad for Pattie called "Wonderful Tonight" (1977).[11] Clapton and Boyd divorced in 1988 after several years of separation.[12]

Writing and recording[edit]Edit

After the breakup of Cream, Clapton tried his hand with several groups, including Blind Faith and the husband-and-wife duo Delaney and Bonnie. In the spring of 1970, he was told that Delaney and Bonnie's backup band, consisting of bassist Carl Radle, drummer Jim Gordon, and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, was leaving the group. Seizing the opportunity, Clapton formed a new group, which became Derek and the Dominos.[13]

In mid-to-late 1970, Duane Allman joined Clapton's fledgling band as a guest. Clapton and Allman, already mutual fans, were introduced at an Allman Brothers concert by Tom Dowd.[14][time needed] The two hit it off well and soon became good friends. Dowd said of their guitar-playing chemistry: "There had to be some sort of telepathy going on because I've never seen spontaneous inspiration happen at that rate and level. One of them would play something, and the other reacted instantaneously. Never once did either of them have to say, 'Could you play that again, please?' It was like two hands in a glove. And they got tremendously off on playing with each other."[15] Dowd was already famous for a variety of work and had worked with Clapton in his Cream days (Clapton once called him "the ideal recording man"); his work on the album would be another achievement. For the making of his biographical film Tom Dowd and the Language of Music, he remixed the original master tapes of "Layla,"[16] saying, "There are my principles, in one form or another."[14][time needed]

Clapton originally wrote "Layla" as a ballad, with lyrics describing his unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, but the song became a "rocker" when Allman reportedly composed the song's signature riff.[15] With the band assembled and Dowd producing, "Layla" was recorded in its original form. The recording consisted of six guitar tracks: a rhythm track by Clapton, three tracks of harmonies played by Clapton against the main riff, a track of slide guitar by Allman, and one track with both Allman and Clapton playing duplicate solos.[15][17]

Shortly afterward, Clapton returned to the studio, where he heard Gordon playing a piano piece he had composed separately. Clapton, impressed by the piece, convinced Gordon to allow it to be used as part of the song.[13] "Layla's" second movement was recorded roughly a week after the first, with Gordon playing his piano part, Clapton playing acoustic guitar and slide guitar, and Allman playing electric and bottleneck slide guitar.[15][17] After Dowd spliced the two movements together,[15] "Layla" was complete.

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