In 1996, Eric Clapton took the stage with Luciano Pavarotti to sing this beautiful song to the Blessed Mother. The pair were joined by the East London Gospel Choir for the touching Christian hymn, penned by Clapton himself.
The song is a heartfelt plea for Mary’s intercession. Clapton’s lyrics delve into the core of desperation, stating the need for Mary’s presence in his life before exclaiming in lilting tones “I can’t wait any longer.” The urgency of the song is made all the more intense by Pavarotti’s roaring tenor reaching up to the high notes. Clapton’s signature guitar solos are interspersed with belted high notes from the illustrious vocalist.
“Holy Mother” was originally released as part of Clapton’s 1986 album, August. According to a Facebook post from Clapton’s page, provided by Songfacts,the classic rock legend was inspired to write this hymn after he saw Prince’s Purple Rain. He wrote:
“In the ’80s, I was out on the road in a massive downward spiral with drink and drugs, I saw Purple Rain in a cinema in Canada. I had no idea who he was, it was like a bolt of lightning! In the middle of my depression, and the dreadful state of the music culture at that time it gave me hope, he was like a light in the darkness … I went back to my hotel, and surrounded by empty beer cans, wrote Holy Mother.”
Clapton opened up a little more about the spiritual moment he wrote “Holy Mary” in his memoir, The Autobiography. In this recollection, Clapton explained that the song came to him while he was in rehab for his alcoholism. La Sallet provides the passage:
“I was in complete despair,” wrote Clapton. “In the privacy of my room, I begged for help. I had no notion who I thought I was talking to, I just knew that I had come to the end of my tether … and, getting down on my knees, I surrendered. Within a few days I realized that … I had found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in. From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night, to express gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety.”
When the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan sang ‘Ave Maria’ with Pavarotti