Clair, by Gilbert O’Sullivan

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 moral panic about intergenerational relations: “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:

The video is accompanied by the song’s lyrics, which I reproduce here:

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, 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, 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
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.


Previously published on Agapeta, 2015/07/10.

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