There are many reasons to make music. Music can be a voice for those who otherwise are not heard. People are inspired to write music to express emotions of frustration, joy, melancholy, and loss. But above all, there seems to be one emotion that makes people want to sing and dance more than any other. It’s love. Love is one of the most powerful drivers of creativity, and amongst all of those who have been the source of inspiration for love songs there are few that are more powerful than those written for Pattie Boyd, who inspired not one but two of the greatest musicians of recent times: George Harrison and Eric Clapton. A true story of love, friendship, desperation, and betrayal; something of a scandal that resulted in the creation of what have been deemed by some to be a few of the greatest love songs of all time.
“Something in the way she moves…
I don’t want to leave her now, you know I believe and how.”
-George Harrison, “Something”
Pattie Boyd met Beatles lead guitar player George Harrison during the filming of the Fab Four’s first movie, “A Hard Day’s Night”. She played a minor role as a stewardess on a train and said no more than a single word. And yet, she caught Harrison’s eye. Soon, she and Harrison started dating and were married on January 21, 1966. Songs that are confirmed to have been written about her include “I Need You” from Help! (released a year after they met), the upbeat “For You Blue” from Let It Be and the song that Frank Sinatra himself claims to be the greatest love song of all time: “Something” from Abbey Road.
I Need You:
For You Blue:
Something (Album Version):
“Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it because
I don’t want to fade away.”
-Eric Clapton, “Bell Bottom Blues”
Besides Boyd, another important person in Harrison’s life was close friend and musical partner in crime, Eric Clapton. At some point during the friendship, Clapton realized that he had feelings for his friend’s wife. In an attempt to profess his feelings for her, he composed the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs in 1970, the most famous being the legendary song “Layla”. The song “Bell Bottom Blues” is also attributed to her, and like Layla, the Clapton’s desperation is completely and utterly tangible. It’s as if with his voice alone, you can see that she’s “got him on his knees” and “crawling across the floor”. Despite all of Clapton’s efforts, Boyd rejected him since she was still a married woman. Clapton would respond by temporarily disappearing from the public eye.
Bell Bottom Blues:
“I feel wonderful because I see
The love light in your eyes.
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don’t realize how much I love you”
-Eric Clapton, “Wonderful Tonight”
The 70’s would prove to be a difficult time for George and Pattie, filled with the type of juicy scandal that the public loves hear. By 1977, they would divorce. In an act that is reminiscent of the plot of a dramatic romance novel, Pattie Boyd married Eric Clapton in 1979. The marriage would last for almost ten years and result in the composition of the tender “Wonderful Tonight”.
In spite of the passion that surely must have been the inspiration for such a beautiful song, the couple was unable to overcome their difficulties, including drug and alcohol addiction and adultery. The marriage was over by 1988. Pattie had stolen the hearts of two of the most influential guitar players/artists of recent times — and twice did her marriages come to a tragic end.
“Sunrise doesn’t last all morning…
Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning…
All things must pass.
All things must pass away.”
-George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass”
The story ends with a dramatic twist : both George and Eric would move on and renew their close friendship without any bitterness. Both would remarry and start families of their own, all the while remaining successful musicians. Pattie would end up alone. Ironically, the woman who so many passionate love songs were written for — who was sought after by two friends, pitting them against each other — would simply fade away into obscurity. Since her last divorce, she has written a novel about her experiences with the two rockers, but her name is otherwise unrecognizable to most of the public. She will remain Layla, the muse for some of the most impassioned yet tender, riveting and spine-tingling love songs of all time. A phantom muse. An inspiration to the inspirational. The unsung woman behind the greatest love songs ever sung.