Guitarist Eric Clapton co-wrote “Tears in Heaven” with Will Jennings in memory of his 4 1/2-year-old son, Conor, who died after falling from a 53-story Manhattan building in 1991. The window was left open after being cleaned and lacked a window guard. Because the building was a condominium, it was exempt from New York City law that required window guards in high-rise apartments with children under age 12.
After the tragedy, Clapton made television public service announcements in 1992 about the importance of window guards and safety gates: “Each year in this country nearly 100,000 kids are hospitalized for falls. [Window guards and safety gates are] easy and [they] could prevent a terrible tragedy. Believe me. I know.” His efforts resulted in a surge of support for window guards from the general public.
While Clapton initially wrote the song as a “healing agent,” he no longer plays the song live. “I didn’t feel the loss anymore, which is so much a part of performing those songs,” Clapton remarked in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press. “I really have to connect with the feelings that were there when I wrote them.”
Nonetheless, the song has remained popular, ranking No. 362 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is known for its sweet folk sound and lyrics: “Would you know my name/ If I saw you in heaven?/ Would you feel the same/ If I saw you in heaven?”
Read our introduction to the PopMusic series, The 2×2 Project’s compilation of some of the most iconic songs tackling topics of public health. Come back to see new songs posted every Thursday.
Edited by Jordan Lite. Additional Research by Josh Brooks.