Home Entertainment Jim Gordon, famed drummer jailed over mother’s slaying, dies at 77

Jim Gordon, famed drummer jailed over mother’s slaying, dies at 77

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Drummer Jim Gordon, who has performed with dozens of rock stars and shared songwriting credits with Eric Clapton on the hit “Layla,” faced a deepening mental health crisis and died after murdering his mother. Incarcerated for the past 40 years. Prison medical facility in Vacaville, California. he was 77 years old.

His passing was announced in a statement from his publicist, Bob Marlis. No reason was given.

Mr. Gordon’s collaborations included tracks from George Harrison’s first post-Beatles album, All Things Must Pass (1970).beach boys epochle “Pet Sound” Album (1966) and Steely Dan’s 1974 song “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”

From bluesy backbeats to whip crack licks, the demand for Mr. Gordon’s versatility was once so high that he demanded three times the drummer’s studio rate. He spanned as many different genres as Glen Campbell’s country-influenced odes (“Wichita Lineman” 1968), the folk ballad of Gordon Lightfoot (“sunset,” 1974) and Frank Zappa’s fusion of rock and jazz. Zappa nicknamed Gordon “Skippy”. It’s a playful jab at his growing up in a sunny suburb in California.

Sitting at his drum kit, Mr. Gordon charmed musicians and enthusiasts as part of The Wrecking Crew, a group of mostly anonymous studio players based in Los Angeles. top star. His athletic 6-foot-3 frame and mop of curly wavy hair allowed him to unleash a punch of skins and cymbals for rockers like Joe Cocker and Tom Petty. Or it could have carved out the sharp-edged rhythm that defined the song.

His work on The Incredible Bongo Band’s 1973 song “Apache” (a remake of the 1960 hit by The Shadows) was discovered by a hip-hop artist and became one of the most sampled drum breaks in history. 2012 documentary “Sample this” called the Bongo Band version “a hip-hop anthem”.

Gordon, who also played keyboards, was credited with the piano-led second coda “Layla” Introduced in 1970 album, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” by Clapton’s band Derek and the Dominos. (Singer and songwriter Rita Coolidge claims she helped write the song, but the credit was denied.

While Mr. Gordon’s fame grew, his increasingly erratic behavior alarmed other musicians. While on tour with Cocker in 1970, he was accused by Coolidge of assaulting her. ‘It came out of nowhere,’ she was quoted as saying in her 2023 on Bill Janowitz biography Musician Leon Russell.

Gordon sought outpatient treatment for an episode of schizophrenia — he said he heard voices telling him when to eat, what to wear and when to work. On occasion, he also disappeared on drug and alcohol binges.

Offers and gigs fell through. In 1979, Mr. Gordon was in Las Vegas with Paul His Anka’s band. After the opening few bars, Mr. Gordon walked off the stage.

Just before midnight on June 3, 1983, Mr. Gordon arrived at the North Hollywood home of his 71-year-old mother, Osa Marie Gordon. According to police records, he hit her four times with a hammer on the head. She managed to survive it. Police said he then stabbed her butcher knife into her chest multiple times.

At his trial in 1984, a psychiatrist testified that Mr. Gordon believed his mother controlled him through voices in his head. He testified that he felt that his voice sometimes prevented him from playing the drums.

“This is not a murder case,” said attorney Scott Firstman. “This incident is a tragedy.”

Mr Gordon convicted 16 years in prison for second-degree murder. A then-new California law prohibited the use of insanity as a defense. But Judge James Albracht noted that Gordon was apparently “severely mentally ill.”

Gordon was sent to an inmate medical facility for treatment for schizophrenia. For decades, his parole was denied.

“When I remember the crime, it’s like a dream,” he told The Washington Post in 1994. on another plane. It didn’t look real. ”

James Beck Gordon was born on July 14, 1945 in Los Angeles and grew up in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley in the post-war suburbs. His father was an accountant and his mother a teacher.

He started playing drums as a child, building his first kit out of a trash can. By his teens, he was in a local band making $10 for gigs while playing percussion with the Burbank Symphony Orchestra. He was offered a music scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles. Instead, as soon as he graduated from high school in 1963, he joined the Everly Brothers to tour the United Kingdom.

His picky habits stood out. Even for one-night gigs, he carefully unpacked and folded them at the hotel. His money was carefully saved and tallied up to the cost of toothpaste, influenced by his father’s meticulous bookkeeping. “He was partying like a rock star, but he was managing his money like a CPA,” Martin Boo wrote in his The Post profile.

In the mid-1960s, Los Angeles’ top studio drummer, Hal Blaine, got word that up-and-coming talent was in town. Mr. Gordon quickly chose an artist.He worked with Carly Simon “You are so conceited” (1972) and John Lennon in 1971 “Empower the People” single. The list kept growing: Harry Nilsson, Nancy Sinatra, Byrds.

Later, from behind the prison, Mr. Gordon called “Layla,” “Apple Jam” Session with Harrison.

Marriage of Mr. Gordon to dancer Jill Gordon Singer Rene Armand divorced. Survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, Amy.

In 1993 Mr. Gordon watched Clapton win best rock song on television Grammy Acoustic version of “Layla” from his album “Unplugged” (1992). Mr. Gordon was noted as the songwriter for the Grammy Awards, but Clapton did not mention him in his acceptance speech.

Gordon appeared to hold no grudges in an interview with The Post a year later.

“I still want to play with Eric,” he said.


An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the death as May 13th. It was him March 13th. The article had been updated.

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