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Sex, Persians, and Rock n’ Roll

If you don’t think of Ancient Persia when you think of Eric Clapton, you clearly haven’t been reading enough Persian love poetry.

You might recognize Eric Clapton’s “Layla” as one of the most iconic love songs from rock music, performed by one of the most famous British rock guitarists of all time.

You might not recognize it as a deliberate swipe from “The Story of Layla,” one of Persia’s most famous love poems.

An Ancient Tale of Unrequited Love

 “The Story of Layla” recounts the ill-fated romance between a Bedouin poet named Majnun and a fellow tribeswoman, Layla. Majnun sought Layla’s hand in marriage, but the girl’s father refused. Layla then married another man. Upon discovering the news, the heartbroken Manjun wandered the desert, producing angsty poetry:

I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla

And I kiss this wall and that wall

It’s not Love of the houses that has taken my heart

But of the One who dwells in those houses

He succumbed to madness and his family found him dead in the desert around 700 AD.

 

A Tale of (Somewhat) Unrequited Love

 

Eric Clapton fell in love with a beautiful model, Pattie Boyd. There was a slight hitch. She was the wife of one of his best friends, George Harrison (lead guitarist of The Beatles).

Clapton didn’t wander the desert, but he, too, wrote some angsty lyrics:

Let’s make the best of the situation

Before I finally go insane.

Please don’t say we’ll never find a way

And tell me all my love’s in vain.

There’s no coincidence that the title of the song was “Layla.” Ian Dallas, a friend of Clapton’s, was converting to Islam and told him the ancient story.

For Clapton, life didn’t reflect art. He confronted Harrison and told him that he was in love with his wife. Miraculously, Harrison and Clapton remained friends. A few years later, Pattie Boyd divorced her husband and married Clapton. Harrison was, believe it or not, a guest at their wedding.

Clapton and Boyd divorced ten years later.

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In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a British rocker or a Persian Bedouin. We’re all susceptible to the phrase, “Like a fool, I fell in love with you.”

 

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