George Harrison was fine with his first wife Pattie Boyd leaving him for Eric Clapton. After everything that had happened in his marriage, he was just glad Boyd had gone with Clapton and not someone he didn’t trust.
On the set of The Beatles The night of a hard day, George and Boyd fell in love at first sight. Shortly thereafter, they began dating.
Being a Beatle’s girlfriend was a challenge for Boyd. However, the pair made a life away from Beatlemania. In Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George HarrisonJoshua M. Greene wrote that Boyd played an active role in George’s life. They did everything together “as if they were a unit”.
In 1966, George had to ask the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein for permission to marry Boyd. After that, her movements were even more syncopated. They moved to the Esher suburbs and when George became interested in spirituality, Boyd joined him on his journey.
By then, George Clapton had scored a couple of times in passing. Eventually they started hanging out more. In Martin Scorsese’s documentary George Harrison: Life in the Material WorldClapton said, “When I saw George and Pattie together, the way they blended into the Beatles thing with all their domesticity, it seemed like Camelot.”
Clapton saw himself as Lancelot or the lone wolf, with neither the successful band nor the doting, loving wife who did everything to him. Eventually, Clapton fell in love with Boyd. As George began to leave Boyd behind and spent most of his time learning more about spirituality, she found it more difficult to resist Clapton’s advances.
Eventually Boyd received love letters from Clapton addressed to “Layla”. Then Clapton wrote “Layla” for her. They met secretly and Clapton played the song to her. Boyd knew everyone would know it was about her.
George later found Boyd and Clapton talking at a party and asked what was going on. Clapton confessed he was in love with the model. According to Boyd, George was furious and asked his wife who she was going home with that evening. However, according to Greene, George said: “It doesn’t worry me. You can have her and I can have your girlfriend.”
Boyd stayed with George, but she claims his infidelities continued. She sought comfort in Clapton. Eventually, Boyd left her husband, but it was a peaceful split. George realized that his wife “had as much right to chart a path for herself as he had,” Greene wrote.
If Boyd left him for anyone, who better than Clapton? The guitarists had become so close that looking at Clapton was “like looking at myself”.
According to Greene, seeing Boyd and Clapton together made George happy. “I’d rather have her on him than on some dope,” he said.
In 1977, George Crawdaddy (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters) that he had no problem with the situation. Clapton had the problem.
“I mean, you know, the thing with…is with Eric over the years and, you know, with both of us [George and Pattie Harrison] loved Eric – still do – and there were some funny things. I raised his chick once,” George said.
“That happened, and now you’d think he’d try to avenge me [laughing]. But much later, when all of that was happening, when I broke up with Pattie, you know… Pattie and he got together after we really broke up, and actually we’d broke up for years.
“That was a fun thing you know, I thought it would be best for us to break up and we just should have done it a lot sooner. But I had no problem with that; Eric had the problem. Every time I would visit him and stuff, he would get really excited and I would say, “Fuck it man, don’t apologize,” and he didn’t believe me. I said, ‘I don’t care.’”
According to Greene, Eric was amazed at how casual George was about the whole situation. He willingly gave Boyd away and agreed to divorce her.
“He managed to laugh it all off when I thought it was going to be pretty hairy,” Clapton later said. “I found the whole situation tense – he found it funny. He helped us all through the breakup.”
At Clapton and Boyd’s wedding, George introduced himself as a husband-in-law. Eventually, George found someone who was a better match, Olivia Arias.