Tears In Heaven: The 10 Best Songs To Come Out Of Tragedy
Since the dawn of time, great art has been birthed out of great tragedy, happening numerous times with playwrights, artists, and musicians. In many ways, expressing grief through music serves as a healing agent that gets the artist through tough things such as the loss of a loved one.
Photo by Daniel Kramer Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton at Toyota Center, June 2009
It also helps those artists' fans get through tough times, such as when a fan deals with the loss of a loved one.
10. Eric Clapton, "Tears in Heaven": 1991 was not a good year for legendary guitarist Eric Clapton, who suffered the loss of his four-and-a-half-year-old son, Conor. While Conor and his mother, Clapton's former girlfriend Lory Del Santo, were at a friend's apartment in New York City, the boy fell 53 stories out of a window he opened, which had not been child-proofed.
After much grieving, Clapton decided to write another song for a movie called Rush -- he had already written "Hold Me Up" for the film's soundtrack. "Tears In Heaven" earned Clapton three Grammys for Song of the Year, Male Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year in 1993.
9. Elton John, "Candle In The Wind 1997": Originally written in 1973 about the death of legendary actress Marilyn Monroe, singer Elton John decided to rewrite some of the lyrics to pay tribute to Princess Diana, a close friend of his. While in Paris with her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, they were in a car crash in a tunnel. John was asked to sing this beautiful ballad at her funeral. He subsequently released it as a single and it achieved multiplatinum status. However, John has vowed never to perform this version again unless asked by Diana's sons, Prince Harry and Prince William.
8. Steven Curtis Chapman, "Cinderella": Multiplatinum Contemporary Christian artist Stephen Curtis Chapman and his wife had adopted three little girls from China: Maria Sue, Stevey Joy and Shaohannah. Along with Chapman's oldest daughter Emily Richards, these were the little girls who inspired the song "Cinderella."
However, the song took on a new meaning one fateful afternoon when the singer's son Will drove into the driveway. Maria came running towards the vehicle with excitement to see her big brother, but Will didn't see her and hit her with the vehicle. Maria Sue was pronounced dead on arrival at only age 5.
This tragedy not only ended Chapman's daughter's life, but according to the singer, it nearly ended his music career. However, he has since resumed his career and has helped start a charity adoption agency that assists families wanting to adopt from China. He even revised the lyrics to the song at the end to say "but I know that the truth is the dance will go on" -- referring to him seeing her in Heaven one day.
7. Journey, "Only the Young" In 1984, Journey was asked by a mother of a young fan to come and visit her son, 16-year-old Kenny Sykaluk, who was in the terminal stages of cystic fibrosis. The band visited the young fan and gave him a demo copy of this song along with a new Walkman.
The whole experience of giving Kenny the song and seeing him in this condition deeply moved the band members. It made most of them cry because it was hard to see him struggle for every breath he took. Sadly, Kenny died the following day. Shortly thereafter, the band embarked on their Raised On Radio tour and opened with this song to honor the memory of their young fallen fan.
6. Bruce Springsteen, "You're Missing": When the horrific events of September 11, 2001 happened, one artist decided to make a whole album about his feelings: The Boss. It has been said that after that terrible day, a stranger pulled up alongside Springsteen in a car, rolled down the window and said "we need you now."
At the time, Springsteen had not released a full-length studio album of new material since 1995's The Ghost of Tom Joad. The lyrics speak of a 9/11 widow or widower and says "pictures on the nightstand, TV's on in the den/ Your house is waiting, your house is waiting/ for you to walk in, for you to walk in/ But you're missing, you're missing/ You're missing when I shut out the lights/ You're missing when I close my eyes/ You're missing when I see the sun rise/ You're missing."
5. Puff Daddy, Faith Evans & 112: "I'll Be Missing You: Rapper/producer Puff Daddy (aka "P. Diddy") and rapper Notorious B.I.G were friends and frequent collaborators. Sadly, Notorious B.I.G had his life taken away from him March 9, 1997, when, while out with his entourage in Los Angeles, a car pulled up beside his vehicle and a man pulled out a 9mm blue-steel pistol and shot at his car, hitting Biggie in the chest. He was immediately rushed to Cedars-Sinai hospital but died at 1:15 a.m. This song is all about Diddy's friendship with Biggie.
4. Michael Jackson, "Gone Too Soon": When the AIDS crisis hit in the '80s, there were many innocent victims, including children. Unfortunately it had the stigma of being called a sexually transmitted disease that affected predominantly gay men, which caused much discrimination against them.
Enter Ryan White: a teenager with hemophiliac who had been diagnosed with AIDS which he got from a blood transfusion. White caused quite a media stir due to the ongoing legal battles regarding the teenager's middle school banning him from entering their school premises. Many people in the town also ostracized White and his supporters; some even threatened violence.
Amidst the controversy, Jackson became good friends with White. However, White died in 1990, one month before his high school graduation. Jackson, along with other media figures such as singer Elton John and then-First Lady Barbara Bush, attended White's funeral. Jackson wrote the song about White, and it saw a resurgence in popularity with the death of Princess Diana, with whom Jackson was also friends, and then Jackson's own death.
3. Heart, "These Dreams," Though written by frequent Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin and legendary songwriter Martin Page, the song was dedicated to a good friend of guitarist Nancy Wilson who died of leukemia shortly before the song was recorded. The song itself deals with someone escaping to a dreamlike world when things get tough. It ended up being Heart's biggest hit ever, topping the Billboard Hot 100 and sparking a major comeback for the band.
2. Stevie Nicks, "Nightbird": Fleetwood Mac member Stevie Nicks has often said that the massive success of her 1981 solo debut Bella Donna was marred by the death of her best friend, Robin Anderson, from terminal leukemia. Her second solo album, 1983's The Wild Heart, was dedicated to her fallen friend.
Nicks said in the album's press kit for the that the song is "about my friend Robin, it's about death, it's a spirit calling. Wearing boots all summer long is like, always being ready for a flood or avalanche to happen, for the worst to happen. Because when you really look at life, all the money, material things and dreams we all search after could not save one small girl."
1. The Pretenders, Back on the Chain Gang": Though the song was originally about Pretenders lead singer/guitarist Chrissie Hynde's then-boyfriend, Kinks lead vocalist Ray Davies, the meaning of the song changed for Hynde upon finding out about the death of
her fellow bandmember, James Honeyman-Scott, of a heroin overdose. The meaning of the song fits this sad event very well, because it talks about remembering the good times you had with a person who died or has gone away.
Honorable Mention: Stevie Nicks, "Edge of Seventeen"; Luther Vandross, "Dance With My Father"
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