Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the song written by Eric Clapton. For the Saudi Arabian town of Layla, see Layla, Saudi Arabia
"Layla" is the title track on the Derek and the Dominos album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. It is one of rock music's definitive love songs, featuring an unmistakable guitar figure, played by Clapton and Duane Allman, as lead-in.
The song was inspired by a Persian love story, The Story of Layla/Layla and Majnun, by Nezami. When he wrote "Layla", Derek and the Dominos leader Eric Clapton had recently been given a copy by a friend, Ian Dallas, who was in the process of becoming a Muslim.
At the time, Clapton was desperately in love with Pattie Boyd, then the wife of his good friend, Beatle George Harrison. Nezami's tale, about a moon-princess who was married off by her father to someone other than the man who was desperately in love with her, resulting in his madness (in Arabic, Majnoun means "madman"), struck a deep chord with Clapton.
"Layla" was the result - a powerful and moving statement of unrequited love for Boyd-Harrison, with an immediately recognisable guitar riff, which always remains a vivid memory for anyone who has heard it.
Another song from that album, "I Am Yours", actually sets some of Nezami's words to music.
"Layla" is centered around two musical themes. The first, a guitar piece performed at several different octaves, composed of a quick series of hammer-ons and pull-offs, is considered the "signature riff". It repeats throughout the intro and choruses. The second, altogether gentler piece, is played on piano and acoustic guitar.
In essence, "Layla" is split into two segments; the first contains the signature riff, verses, and Duane Allman's virtuosic slide guitar solo. The second, known as the piano coda, was written by Jim Gordon. The contrast between the emotional beginning and mild ending is uncommon in rock music, and highly effective as a result.
The Layla album opened to poor sales and mixed critical reviews. The sales were largely due to Clapton's attempt at semi-anonymity. Still, the album slowly garnered acclaim and popularity to the point where it now regularly places on rock album countdowns, with similar results for the song. The album and song are both considered among the best rock has ever produced.
- Ray Coleman, Clapton! (Warner Books, 1985) pp. 179-192
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