So who wrote “Layla”, the iconic love song made so famous by Derek And The Dominos and Eric Clapton? As the story goes, Clapton wrote it because of his forbidden love for his best friend and neighbor George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd. Duane Allman came up with the guitar riff inspired by Albert King’s vocal on “As the Years Go Passing By”
and then quite “by pure accident” the drummer, Jim Gordon, had come up with the piano chords, which helped make the song. The song is one of the best-known love songs ever recorded.
Halt. Rita Coolidge claims in her newly published memoir, Delta Lady: A Memoir (Harper), that she was denied a songwriting credit for the song. She said that Jim Gordon had come over to her house and played a chord progression that he’d just composed on the piano. She claims they wrote the song “Time (Don’t Let the World Get In Our Way)” and recorded a demo with Jim Gordon and that they played it for Eric Clapton. She said they left the tape with Clapton, and then she largely forgot about it. That is until one day when she was in a photography shoot and the song came on the radio. She was furious when she later looked at the songwriting credit as “E. Clapton and J. Gordon”, with no mention of R. Coolidge.
The song had changed, “But our song, with Jim’s wistful melody and my sweet countermelody, would come to haunt me the rest of my life.
She was encouraged not to fight it. And so, she has kept quiet about it all these years until now. “Until now I’ve never told of how I helped write one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded,” she said.
Rita Coolidge has had an extensive career as a recording artist and songwriter with two Grammys and 15 Billboard pop-chart hits. Will she be able to add this song to her long list of hits? We wonder if and how Eric Clapton will respond to this claim. We’ll keep you posted.
You can read an excerpt from her book on Billboard.