The Story of... 'Wonderful Tonight' by Eric Clapton

15 August 2019, 11:23

Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd
Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

It's one of the most romantic songs of all time, known for its distinctive guitar riff and emotional lyrics.

But who did Eric Clapton write 'Wonderful Tonight' about and what came next? Here's all the fascinating facts behind the love song:

  1. What inspired 'Wonderful Tonight'?

    Eric Clapton Wonderful Tonight Live greatest version

    Eric Clapton wrote 'Wonderful Tonight' in 1976 while waiting for his then-girlfriend (and future wife) Pattie Boyd to get ready for a night out.

    They were heading out to a Buddy Holly tribute that Paul McCartney had arranged, and Clapton was waiting around while she tried on clothes.

    Boyd told The Guardian in 2008 that Clapton "was sitting round playing his guitar while I was trying on dresses upstairs.

    "I was taking so long and I was panicking about my hair, my clothes, everything, and I came downstairs expecting him to really berate me but he said, 'Listen to this!'"

    On March 28, 1979, the day after they got married, Clapton brought Pattie on stage and sang this to her at his concert in Tucson, Arizona.

  2. Who is Pattie Boyd?

    Patti Boyd and George Harrison
    Patti Boyd and George Harrison. Picture: Getty

    Pattie Boyd is an English model and photographer. She was one of the leading models of the 1960s.

    She was previously married to George Harrison in 1966, but they divorced in 1977.

    Before their divorce, she had started a relationship with Harrison's friend Clapton, but she remained good friends with the Beatle. In fact, he even performed at their wedding.

    Boyd also inspired Harrison's songs such as 'If I Needed Someone', 'Something' and 'For You Blue', as well as Clapton's 'Layla'.

    She and Clapton divorced in 1989, and two years later she met property developer Rod Weston. They got married in 2015.

  3. Two famous singers provided backing vocals

    Eric Clapton performing with Marcy Levy (later Marcella Detroit)
    Eric Clapton performing with Marcy Levy (later Marcella Detroit). Picture: Getty

    The female backing harmonies on the track were provided by none other than future Shakespears Sister member Marcella Detroit, and disco legend Yvonne Elliman.

    The song was included on his 1977 album Slowhand.

  4. It was never a hit

    Would you believe it, but the song was never a hit in the UK. In fact, it didn't even reach the top 75.

    Its current peak is number 81!

    However, it was re-released in 1991 as a live version, but even then it only reached number 30.

    It fared better in the US, reaching a peak of number 16.

    Despite that, it has become one of Clapton's most famous hits.

  5. Who has covered it?

    Damage - Wonderful Tonight

    The most successful version of the song in the UK was recorded by boyband Damage.

    The song reached number three in 1997.

  6. What are the lyrics?

    It's late in the evening; she's wondering what clothes to wear
    She puts on her make-up and brushes her long blonde hair
    And then she asks me, Do I look all right?
    And I say, "Yes, you look wonderful tonight

    We go to a party and everyone turns to see
    This beautiful lady that's walking around with me
    And then she asks me, Do you feel all right?
    And I say, "Yes, I feel wonderful tonight"

    I feel wonderful because I see
    The love light in your eyes
    And the wonder of it all
    Is that you just don't realize how much I love you

    It's time to go home now and I've got an aching head
    So I give her the car keys and she helps me to bed
    And then I tell her, as I turn out the light
    I say, "My darling, you were wonderful tonight
    Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight