Gilbert O’Sullivan: Clair

Gilbert O'Sullivan and Clair Mills - from The Daily Mail, 5 February 2011

Gilbert O’Sullivan and Clair Mills – from The Daily Mail, 5 February 2011

The Irish singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan was popular in the early 1970’s. One of his greatest hits has been the song Clair, which ranked top in the UK Singles Chart for two weeks in November 1972. It tells his affectionate love for a little girl aged 3 or 4 whom he babysat, the daughter of his producer-manager Gordon Mills. He expresses his feelings straightforwardly, with a spontaneity that would be difficult to find in our epoch of fear and moralization: «Each time I leave you I feel I could die / Nothing means more to me than hearing you say / “I’m going to marry you / Will you marry me, Uncle Ray ?”» (O’Sullivan’s real forename was Raymond.)

There is a YouTube video of the song, with a film showing Gilbert O’Sullivan and Clair Mills frolicking together. Here are the song’s lyrics:

Clair
(Words & Music by Gilbert O’Sullivan)

Clair, the moment I met you, I swear
I felt as if something, somewhere
Had happened to me, which I couldn’t see
And then, the moment I met you, again
I knew in my heart that we were friends
It had to be so, it couldn’t be no

But try as hard as I might do, I don’t know why
You get to me in a way I can’t describe
Words mean so little when you look up and smile
I don’t care what people say
To me you’re more than a child

Oh, Clair
Clair

Clair, if ever a moment so rare
Was captured for all to compare
That moment is you in all that you do
But why in spite of our age difference do I cry
Each time I leave you I feel I could die
Nothing means more to me than hearing you say
“I’m going to marry you
Will you marry me, Uncle Ray ?”

Oh, Clair
Clair

Clair, I’ve told you before “Don’t you dare”
“Get back into bed”
“Can’t you see that it’s late”
“No you can’t have a drink”
“Oh, alright then, but wait just a bit”

While I, in an effort to babysit, catch of my breath
What there is left of it
You can be murder at this hour of the day
But in the morning this hour will seem a lifetime away

Oh Clair
Clair
Oh Clair

A few years later, Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Gordon Mills over missing royalties. Eventually, in May 1982, the court found in O’Sullivan’s favour, and awarded him £7 million in damages as well as the return of all his master tapes. The two men never spoke to one another again, and Gordon Mills died in 1986.

Sources:

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2 thoughts on “Gilbert O’Sullivan: Clair

  1. Entre le chanteur et cette fillette, il s’agit probablement d’un amour que je qualifierais — pour le moins — de “platonique”… Il est vrai que, à cette époque, la société, dans ce domaine, était très permissive… Mais cette relation entre le chanteur et cette enfant était peut-être plus sérieuse, si je m’en réfère à certains passages du texte, comme, par exemple, “I don’t care what people say…”, ou bien encore “But why in spite of our age difference do I cry / Each time I leave you I feel I could die…”, ainsi, bien entendu, que les propos que la fillette adresse à son ami : “I’m going to marry you / Will you marry me, Uncle Ray ?”… Tout cela laisse supposer une relation amoureuse dont il n’y a évidemment pas lieu de s’offusquer, car tous les pédopsychiatres savent bien que des enfants de cet âge ont fréquemment une attirance pour des adultes, à commencer par leur propre père — c’est bien connu —… Ceci étant, ce chanteur était-il “pédophile”, au sens où pouvait l’être un Lewis Carroll ?… ça me semble plus que probable… Aucun jugement de valeur à faire ici, car il convient de se rappeler, une fois encore, que les moeurs de l’époque — celle des “Hippies” — avaient une largeur d’esprit bien supérieure à celle dans laquelle nous vivons désormais…

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  2. I had no idea he had done such a lovely song! I admit that I was unfamiliar with his work beyond “Alone Again (Naturally)” and have meant to remedy that error for quite some time. Thanks for the motivation and inspiration!

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