Layla as performed by Eric Clapton (1970 & 1992)

Eric Clapton & Friends in a 1999 benefit performance of the original version of Layla written by Clapton & Dave Gordon.

Song Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine – Derek & the Dominos’ album Layla was Eric Clapton’s dark night of the soul, and the title song was its masterpiece — an anguished plea to a forbidden love that was Clapton’s barely disguised letter to Patti Boyd, the wife of his best friend, George Harrison. Clapton had never sounded as pained as he did here, and he never sounded as tortured again — not even on “Tears in Heaven,” written after the tragic death of his young son. “Layla” is pure catharsis, followed by a coda written by Jim Gordon that is nothing less than bliss, the sound of love fulfilled. ( The rest of this review can be found here.)

The original version of Layla was “the little love song that could” in that it took it a while to really, really catch on as far as the charts go . According to this excerpt from the Layla Wiki Page:

The album ‘Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs’ opened to lackluster sales (the album never reached the charts in Britain), as, with Clapton unmentioned except on the back, it appeared to be a double album from an unknown band. Also, the song’s length proved prohibitive for radio airplay; as a result, an edited version of the song, trimmed to 2:43, was released as a single in March 1971 by Atco (U.S.). It peaked at only #51 on the Billboard Hot 100.

However, when “Layla” was re-released on the 1972 compilation The History of Eric Clapton and then released as a single, it charted at #7 in the UK and #10 in the U.S. Critical opinion since has been overwhelmingly positive. Dave Marsh, in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, wrote that, “there are few moments in the repertoire of recorded rock where a singer or writer has reached so deeply into himself that the effect of hearing them is akin to witnessing a murder, or a suicide… to me, ‘Layla’ is the greatest of them.”

n 1982 “Layla” was re-released as a single in the UK and was an even bigger success than in 1972, peaking at #4.

The song has since experienced great critical and popular acclaim. Two versions have achieved chart success, first in 1972 and again twenty years later. Here is the second Unplugged version.

Layla Unplugged performed live in 1992 (CD is on Reprise)

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