Music Friday: Eric Clapton’s ‘Golden Ring’ Chronicles Complicated Love Triangle With Model Pattie Boyd and Beatles’ George Harrison

When 17-time Grammy winner Eric Clapton was asked by VH1 in 1999 to name his favorite song from his own catalog, he surprisingly picked “Golden Ring,” the ninth track on his 1978 Backless album.

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He said the simple song was his all-time favorite because “it’s obscure, people don’t know it and it’s about marriage.”

It was later revealed that Clapton wrote the song to chronicle his complicated love triangle with model Pattie Boyd and the Beatles’ George Harrison. Harrison and Clapton became close friends in the late 1960s, but despite their friendship, Clapton fell in love with Boyd, who Harrison had married in 1966.

In 1970, Clapton reportedly proclaimed his love for Boyd with his hit song, “Layla.” When Boyd rebuffed his advances, Clapton went into a self-imposed musical exile that would last more than three years.

Boyd and Harrison eventually separated in 1974 and divorced in 1977. Clapton now had his chance to rekindle the relationship.

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Clapton penned “Golden Ring” in the emotional transition year between Boyd’s official divorce from Harrison and his own marriage to Boyd in 1979. It was also the year Harrison tied the knot with author Olivia Trinidad Arias.

Clapton explained in his 2007 autobiography, “[Golden Ring] was written about the situation between me, [Pattie] and George. It referred in part to her response to the news that George was getting married again. She took it quite hard, and I, in my arrogance, found that hard to understand. So I wrote this song about the peculiarity of our triangle, which finishes with the words, ‘If I gave to you a golden ring / Would I make you happy, would I make you sing?'”

Clapton, who is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of the Yardbirds and Cream), is considered one of the most influential guitarists of all time, ranking second on Rolling Stone magazine’s all-time list.

We hope you enjoy the video of Clapton’s rendition of “Golden Ring.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

Photo of Eric Clapton/Wikimedia Commons/Chris Hakkens; photo of Clapton and Pattie Boyd (uncredited).

“Golden Ring”
Written and performed by Eric Clapton.

He gave to you a golden ring;
It made you happy, it made you sing.
And I played for you on my guitar;
It didn’t last long, we didn’t go far.

And though the times have changed,
We’re rearranged.
Will the ties that bind remain the same?

You came around after a while;
Everyone said that I made you smile.
It all went well, and suddenly then
You heard that he would marry again.

And though the times have changed,
We’re rearranged.
Will the ties that bind remain the same?

Well I know that I have been here before;
I’ve trod on your wings, I’ve opened the door.
If I gave to you a golden ring
Would I make you happy, would I make you sing?

And though the times have changed,
We’re rearranged.
Will the ties that bind remain the same?

And though the times have changed,
We’re rearranged.
Will the ties that bind remain the same?

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