Fans of Rock & Roll know “Layla” as one of the most recognizable hits of the 1970s.

Derek and the Dominos made a name lasting into the modern generation through the song. Their top hit even came in at #9 on MGK’s Philly 500 for 2022.

Eric Clapton famously wrote “Layla” in 1970 about a complicated romance with Pattie Boyd. The well-known model and photographer was married to George Harrison of the Beatles (ironically a close friend of Clapton’s) at the time.

If Pattie Boyd is the inspiration for “Layla,” why isn’t the song called “Pattie?”

Because the story of Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and Pattie Boyd has strange similarities to a tragic, Middle Eastern love story called Layla and Majnun with origins as far back as the seventh century. 

In the story, the title characters Layla and Majnun fall in love during their childhood, but they’re forbidden from getting married by Layla’s father. Majnun develops an incredible obsession with Layla, and it drives him to madness and a life as a hermit. They never resolve the barriers to their romance in the end.

Clapton made clear references in the lyrics.

Let’s make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane
Please don’t say I’ll never find a way
And tell me all my love’s in vain

After the song reached its status as a top hit, things turned out a little bit differently for Eric Clapton than they did for Majnun. He married Pattie Boyd in 1979 after she became divorced from George Harrison.

The mind-blowing complexities of the relationship between the three also included another divorce, Clapton’s struggles with addiction, a fall from grace for Boyd, and the unfortunate passing of Harrison in 2001.

Pattie Boyd spoke positively in October 2022 about how she had moved past some of the issues in her life. 

Was the madness of Majnun that inspired the lyrics of “Layla” from Derek and the Dominos as painful as what Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and Pattie Boyd experienced? 

Eric Clapton might not have known it in 1970, but he soon found out much more about the type of pain Majnun experienced in a tragic Middle Eastern love story that’s been told for centuries.



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