-- by Mike Murray
Eric Clapton and Will Jennings, commissioned to write a song for the end of the movie Rush, composed Help Me Up. But Clapton, who had just lost his son Connor in a tragic accident, yearned to do more. Seeing another place in the film that could potentially be enhanced by accompanying music, he approached the filmmakers about including an additional piece -- and he enlisted Jennings to help with it.
Clapton had already penned the first line ("Would you know my name / If I saw you in heaven") -- the opening of a tribute to his recently deceased boy. Jennings says he was reluctant to contribute lyrics for something so personal. But he ultimately relented. And, together, they produced a deeply moving song: Tears in Heaven.
If memory serves me correctly, the film's overseers were initially uneasy about including it in their project. They worried that it might be too emotional. That it might be too intense, even, for their highly charged drama (which featured drug lords, fallen cops, addiction, and murder). But, as he had with Jennings, Clapton prevailed. He eventually persuaded the flick's recalcitrant managers to go along.
As things turned out, they needn't have worried. Tears in Heaven garnered a Golden Globe nomination and three Grammy wins (Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Male Pop Performance of 1993). It also charted well -- and clearly enhanced the film for which it was ostensibly written. It's not hard to understand why.
Anyone who has experienced loss of any kind can relate to the song's melancholy words, its haunting melody. Together, they perfectly express bereavement: reluctance to let go; ultimate acceptance; recognition of the need to carry on; belief in the serenity that attends those who have crossed over ("Beyond the door / There's peace, I'm sure").
Sandy and Michael -- who recently said farewell to Wiley -- can, I feel certain, relate. Named for the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote because of his physical resemblance to a Canis latrans (wolf-like, but with a slender build and a narrow muzzle), Wiley was proud – an alpha male. He lived a good, long life. And, although he was hobbled by old age at the end, he nevertheless passed on gracefully. He died with dignity -- in the company of those he loved (and who loved him) most.
Wiley is at peace. He is now, as he was in his youth, vigorous and strong. He is in Heaven, where there are no tears. But there are plenty, here on Earth.
Copyright © 2010 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.