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Clair

by

Gilbert O'Sullivan



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Alas, this is a love song that had a most unhappy ending. Gordon Mills, the father of Clair, was the man who can be said to have created Gilbert O'Sullivan. The Irishman was born Raymond Edward O'Sullivan, and moved to the North of England as a boy when his father was offered a job in Swindon. After finishing art college, Raymond moved to the capital to chase the dream, a path taken by countless songwriters and other artistes before and since, successful and not so. He got lucky when a workmate who had a contract with CBS gave him an intro to the company, and he was signed up for a five year deal, which must have been music to his ears at the time, but led precisely nowhere.

Eventually, he came to the attention of Gordon Mills, who knew the music industry inside out, having been both a performer and a songwriter before moving over to the business side. (He co-wrote "It's Not Unusual", the song that launched the career of Tom Jones). Mills signed O'Sullivan to MAM, changed his name, and the world was his oyster.

Alas, as often happens when a star arrives, he decides he is being underpaid, while the person who guided him to fame and fortune believes Mr. Ten Percent should receive a larger slice of the pie. Their relationship, which had been as much friendship as business, ended in the courts. After years of litigation, O'Sullivan came out on top; the London Times of May 6, 1982 reported that "agreements made between Mr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Mills and his company, Management Agency and Music Ltd [were] 'an unreasonable restraint of trade'."

Among other things, O'Sullivan won control of his songs and master tapes. According to a July 1995 article by Grace Bradberry, the court case left Mills humiliated, his company collapsed, his wife divorced him, and he died in 1986 a broken man.
Regarding "Clair" itself - as will be seen from the above - "Uncle Ray" was not inserted to rhyme with "hearing you say", but alludes to Ray O'Sullivan. It has to be said too that some people, including those with sick minds, have read much more into this sentimental ditty than its composer ever intended, including the phrase "To me you're more than a child" and the girl's laughter at the end of the song. (thanks, Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2)
Gilbert O'Sullivan
More Gilbert O'Sullivan songs
More songs with girls' names in the title
More songs about people who turned against you

Comments (15):

On December 24th 1972, "Clair" by Gilbert O'Sullivan peaked at #2 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on October 22nd and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100...
The first week it was at #2 the #1 record was "Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul and its 2nd week at #2 it was "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon that kept it out of the top spot...
In his native Ireland on Nov. 9th it reached #1 (for 3 weeks) on the Irish Recorded Music Association chart...
An across from Ireland in the U.K. on Nov. 11th it also peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) on the U.K. Single chart...
Back here in the U.S. on December 9th once more it reached #1 (for 3 weeks) on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
Mr. O'Sullivan, born Raymond Edward O'Sullivan, celebrated his 67th birthday earlier this month on December 1st.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Have any of the negative critics of this 70's pop hit really examined any of today's lyrics ???
- Barry, Gagetown NB Canada, -
Its so sad to hear all the negative vibes about a classic masterpiece. Why did so many folks buy it? I wish I could have put my emotions about my own little girl into such poetry. I'm a musician, as was Gilbert. Musos are emotional folk unlike the potential pedos who think it was wrong. These are folk who like to validate their own doubts about themselves perhaps.
- Frank, Belfast, Ireland
I agree with everyone, especially Dave Fowler.It's just a nice song.
- Steve, Whittier, CA
'Clair' is a beautiful song that Gilbert O'Sullivan helped write with the help of Clair's mum. Anyone who thinks this song is inappropriate in any way, needs to GET A LIFE plus you need to get your mind out of the gutter at once! Geesh...enough already with the nonsense!
- Eileen, Peoria, AZ
This is a lovely and touching song in some ways but it is very clear he had more than feelings of closeness for a little girl - 'you get to me in a way I can't describe' and 'why in spite of our age difference do I cry, each time I leave you I feel I could die'. Those are the words of a man tormented by the fact that he was aware his feelings for a child were inappropriate.
- Jeff, Cambridge, United Kingdom
I agree with David Fowler too.
- tom, souderton, PA
My dad used to play me this song when I was little. I absolutely love it, and listening to it now that I live away from my parents brings me right back to my childhood and my dad singing it to me. I didn't ever realize that the song was about a little girl until now, and that just makes it even more special to me.
- Audra Claire, Fayetteville, AR
It's just a nice song about girl he was babysitting. That's it. I'm not really sure what there is to be "a big damn freaked out" about. The song makes a lot of sense if you have a daughter. Little girls are really special and kind of mind-blowing. Their world is so much different than ours. They do "get to you in a way you can't describe." A little girl telling him she wants to marry him someday isn't even remotely unusual. He didn't say he wanted to marry her, it's just a little girl doing what little girls do. I've found that a lot of people who take this song entirely the wrong way aren't parents and most likely haven't even babysat for someone's daughter on a regular basis. You get attached to a little girl, be it your daughter or a girl you babysit regularly. In the 4 years since my daughter was born I've come to completely understand what he's talking about. Their world is just this innocent place where the realities of our world just don't apply anymore. When you hear a song like this and it immediately makes you think "Ah, he's a pedophile!," it says a lot more about you than it ever will about Gilbert O'Sullivan. Is your life really so tragic that you just can't believe that anything can ever be innocent anymore?
- Jas, Clifton, TX
The harmonica solo was played by O'Sullivan's then manager Gordon Mills, and the little girl's laughs on the track were courtesy of Mills' daughter Clair about whom the song was written.
- John, Dublin, Ireland
Actually, there were questions raised about the song at the time it was out--I remember hearing people asking what Gilbert O'sullivan was doing to make the little girl laugh at the song's end.
- ted, phoenix, AZ
A beautiful, heart-warming song. Anyone who gets "a bit damned freaked out" listening to it has unexamined issues of his own.
- Steven, Chicago, IL
I loved it when I first heard it but then I started listening to the lyrics and got a bit damn freaked out.
- Allox, Pom, --
I agree Dave we've come a long way in the wrong direction. But that doesn't take away the heart behind such a warm and caring song.
- Rob, Chicago, IL
It IS about him having to babysit, but these days, I don't think it could ever be a hit. There would be all sorts of talk about him being a pedophile and the like. We've come a long way in the wrong direction.
I like it.
- David Fowler, Rochester, NH
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Phil Hurtt ("I'll Be Around")Phil Hurtt ("I'll Be Around")
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Doubt led to drive for Francis, who still isn't sure why one of Status Quo's biggest hits is so beloved.
Graham Bonnet (Alcatrazz, Rainbow)Graham Bonnet (Alcatrazz, Rainbow)
Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai were two of Graham's co-writers for some '80s rock classics.
Dan ReedDan Reed
Dan cracked the Top 40 with "Ritual," then went to India and spent 2 hours with the Dalai Lama.