When Eric Clapton met Pattie Boyd, he was besotted with her from the start – but his love remained unrequited for more than a decade.
The Taunton-born model was married to his friend – the Beatles’ lead guitarist George Harrison. Clapton could only admire her from afar. He thought of her as his muse and it was reported that she inspired him to write the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs for his band, Derek and the Dominoes, in 1970.
The album’s mega-hit single, Layla, was said to have been written for Boyd. Based on the classical poet Nizami Ganjavi’s 12th-century poem, The Story of Layla and Majnun, Ganjavi wrote of a young man who fell desperately in love with a beautiful woman, but she was unavailable. His love drove him crazy because he couldn’t marry her.
Clapton reportedly felt the same way about Boyd, who was married to Harrison between 1966 and 1977. The pain of Clapton’s love for Boyd played out against the backdrop of London in the Swinging Sixties. He had joined rock band The Yardbirds in 1963, while she had been an elite model since 1962, so they moved in the same circles.
Boyd was born in March 1944 in Somerset. Her family moved to London when she was in her teens and she started work as a shampoo girl at Elizabeth Arden’s salon. Her stunning good looks, epitomising the waif-like appearance made famous by Twiggy, led to her becoming a top model by the time she was 18.
A client in the fashion industry recognised her potential and her career quickly took off. She modelled in London, Paris and New York, featured in Vogue magazine and appeared in several commercials. In 1964, she won a part in the Beatles’ movie, A Hard Day’s Night.
During filming, she met Harrison and they were attracted to each other. Harrison invited her to dinner and two years later, in January 1966, they married. Harrison also saw Boyd as his muse and soon after their wedding, she inspired him to write one of the Beatles’ best songs, Something.
Clapton was born in March 1945 in Ripley, Surrey. He received an acoustic guitar for his 13th birthday and taught himself to play mainly the blues. He practiced for hours, playing along to his favourite records. At 16, he was busking around the West End.
His big break came when he joined the Yardbirds in October 1963. His two years with the band helped to forge his distinctive style. They had their first major hit, For Your Love, in March 1965, which made them international stars.
Clapton and Harrison knew each other through the music industry and went to the same show business parties in London. They became close friends after the Beatles and the Yardbirds shared the bill at the London Palladium.
When Harrison began dating Boyd, it was only a matter of time before Clapton met her at a party. He was reportedly besotted with her, but couldn’t do anything about it, because she was dating his friend. However, one day, Boyd apparently received a love note, signed by “E”, who proclaimed he loved her.
She had no idea who the mysterious “E” was, but presumed it was a fan. However, one evening, Clapton’s manager threw a party at his house. Boyd had always thought of Clapton as a friend, but many years later, it was reported that he asked her outright, at the party, if she had received his letter.
She was said to be shocked, although flattered. She later proclaimed that she held her marriage “very dearly” and told Harrison what was going on. Although she went home with her husband, she later admitted to having had feelings for Clapton and said she “felt torn at that moment”.
Divorce and marriage
Boyd remained married to Harrison until 1977, although it was reported that their marriage was flawed due to Harrison’s infidelity. Boyd later described the last year of their marriage as being “intolerable”.
She had remained friends with Clapton, despite having refused his romantic advances. Harrison and Clapton still wrote music and performed together. However, Clapton was believed to have descended into depression due to his deep feelings for Boyd.
Eventually, Boyd and Harrison’s marriage disintegrated totally and it was only a matter of time until they divorced. Once Boyd was free, she began dating Clapton and they moved in together in 1979. Following their wedding later that year, they reportedly went through a honeymoon period – described as being a time of “sweet delight”.
Harrison remained friends with both his ex-wife and Clapton, jokingly labelling Clapton as his “husband-in-law”. Sadly, after several years of happy marriage, they began to face struggles. Although their public image was one of a solid marriage, in private, they had been trying unsuccessfully to have children for years and the strain took its toll.
The present day
Boyd left Clapton in 1987, citing his alleged affairs as the reason. She went on to divorce him in 1989. After publishing her autobiography in 2007, Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me, she revealed the intensity of both relationships.
Now aged 75, she married her third husband, Rod Weston, a property developer, in 2015. She had known him for some time before they decided to tie the knot at the Register Office in Chelsea Old Town Hall.
Clapton, 74, married Melia McEnery in 2002 and the couple have three daughters. As a solo artist, he has sold more than 100 million records and has become one of the best-selling musicians of all time.
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