This Day In History: March 27

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On March 27, 1979, one of pop music's most famous love triangles shifts when British Blues guitarist Eric Clapton finally marries his muse, former model Pattie Boyd. He had been pursuing her since she was married to one of his best friends, Beatle George Harrison.

Women have served as artistic muses throughout history—from Camille Claudel for sculptor Auguste Rodin to Dora Maar for Pablo Picasso. In the modern era, one such creative influence was the English beauty Pattie Boyd, whose participation in various affairs and marriages among the British rock royalty of the '60s and '70s inspired three famous popular songs, including Harrison's "Something," and both “Layla” and "You Look Wonderful Tonight," by second husband Eric Clapton.

A colorful account of the dramatic arc that led Boyd and Clapton to the altar in 1979 (and to divorce court in 1989) can be found in Pattie Boyd’s 2007 memoir Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me. In summary form, it goes something like this: Boyd met Harrison and the two married soon after, with Harrison writing “Something” for Boyd. Later, Boyd met Clapton, Harrison’s good friend, who fell in love with Boyd. Clapton ended up moving in with Boyd’s teenage sister, but is said to have written “Layla” for Boyd, causing the sister to move out. Boyd then had a brief affair with Clapton, but later returned to Harrison just as the Beatles were breaking up and Clapton was in the early stages of an addiction to heroin. After finally breaking up with Harrison, Boyd returned to a now-clean Clapton, and the couple was married on March 27, 1979. Clapton’s timeless classic, “Wonderful Tonight,” is said to also have been written for Boyd.

If it weren’t for all the alcohol and infidelities that followed, it might well qualify as a perfect rock-and-roll fairy tale. Unfortunately, Pattie Boyd paints a picture of her years with Eric Clapton that makes one question whether such fairy tales ever existed. Even the happy event that took place on this day in 1979 gets low marks for romance in Boyd’s account. It was more of a prank than a wedding, Boyd now says—an attempt by Clapton to win a drunken bet that he couldn’t get his manager’s picture in the paper. Clapton arranged the wedding the very next day, made that manager his best man, and won the bet.