A Grammy Award-winning drummer responsible for co-writing the seminal rock ballad Layla has died in a California mental hospital, after being jailed for nearly 40 years for killing his mother during a schizophrenic episode.
Acclaimed for his stints with some of the biggest names in rock in the 1960s and 1970s, Jim Gordon died of natural causes Monday at the California Medical Center in Vacaville, his publicist announced Tuesday, revealing that the now-fallen star was resting ‘after a long incarceration and lifelong battle with mental illness.’ He was 77 years old.
A native of Los Angeles, Gordon’s story serves as one of the harshest falls from grace in all of rock ‘n’ roll.
Once a founding member of Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos and one of the main drummers on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, his body of work consists of hundreds of recognizable songs.
In addition to being a credited co-writer of Clapton’s 1970 classic, his stick work can be heard on notable albums like the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and singles like Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.”
Jim Gordon, a founding member of Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos and one of the main drummers on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, died in a California mental hospital Monday after nearly 40 years in prison for killing his mother. in 1983.
Once a founding member of Eric Clapton’s group, Gordon’s body of work consists of hundreds of recognizable songs, including the Grammy-winning Layla, which he co-wrote. The couple is seen together circa 1970.
Other great collaborators include Steely Dan, Little Richard, Sonny and Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Glen Campbell, the Everly Brothers and even the Byrds with fellow Los Angeles rocker David Crosby, who also died this year.
Plus, most will tell you that if there was a list of the greatest drummers of the ’60s and ’70s, Gordon would, hands down, be right up there in the top, with his drum breaks being sampled by rappers like Nas and Jay-Z to this day. today.
That being said, a prolonged and mismanaged mental illness would ultimately change his career and result in the brutal stabbing to death of his 72-year-old mother, Osa Marie Gordon, on June 3, 1983.
It wouldn’t be until after his arrest that doctors diagnosed the increasingly unstable drummer with schizophrenia, though during a subsequent trial, lawyers barred his use. use of insanity as a defense due to changes in state law at the time.
youThe California court, however, accepted the star he had acute schizophrenia, but still slapped him with a sentence of 16 years to life in state prison.
At the time, the ruling represented an abrupt and sudden fall from grace for the rocker, who at the height of his career was reportedly so busy that he flew from Los Angeles to Las Vegas every day to make time for recording sessions. . him before returning to play at Caesars Palace.
It was later revealed that the star had been displaying signs of mental illness, as well as increasingly unstable behavior, since the late ’60s, though doctors repeatedly misdiagnosed the issues and instead treated the rocker for drug abuse. alcohol.
During this time, Gordon would begin to hear voices, including his mother’s, who later said during his trial that he was starved and prevented from sleeping and on occasion from playing the drums.
In addition to being a credited co-writer of Clapton’s 1970 classic, his stick work can be heard on albums like the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and singles like Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.”
Gordon (second from right) is seen with his partner Derek and Dominos Claton members Bobby Whitlock and Carl Radle circa 1970
Gordon, acclaimed for stints with some of rock’s biggest names in the ’70s, is seen here in this undated photo from California Medical Center, where he died Monday.
Over the next decade, warning signs of the star’s instability would continue to crop up, including his alleged assault on his then-girlfriend, famed singer-songwriter Rita Coolidge, at a hotel in 1970.
The incident ended the couple’s year-long relationship, but was blamed on the usual behavior associated with rockers at the time.
Aside from the incident, the drummer did well to mask his deteriorating psyche, continuing to churn out hits while showing few, if any, signs of his growing instability.
“He was an amazing guy, really so charismatic,” Coolidge recently said in Leon Russell’s biography of Buffalo rocker Tom Bill Janovitz.
“(But) after it all happened, I started to recognize that look in his eye and I knew I wasn’t playing a full deck.”
Eventually, Gordon’s inner turmoil would come to a head in the summer of 1983. Gordon fatally attacked his mother Osa in her Los Angeles home with a hammer.
During the attack, Gordon brandished a knife and stabbed his mother to death. After his arrest, he confessed to the police that a voice inside his head told him to carry out the act.
He was quickly tried and convicted, ending his storied career.
Over the course of his incarceration, which began in 1984, Gordon would admit to being “institutionalized” before being transferred to a California psychiatric facility, now showing a genuine desire to be released.
He was paroled multiple times between 1991 and 2018, all of which were denied.
In 2014, before his ninth parole hearing, he refused to attend, with an LA assistant prosecutor stating at the time that he was still “severely psychologically impaired” and “a danger when he’s not taking his medication.”
In November 2017, Gordon would be re-diagnosed with schizophrenia and would continue to receive treatment.
Gordon’s publicist confirmed Tuesday that he died while incarcerated at the California Medical Center, where he has been held for years after being convicted of the murder in 1984.
His last parole hearing came in March 2018, during which officials denied the musician parole for the 10th and final time. He was tentatively scheduled to become eligible for early release again in March 2021, though a hearing never took place.
His publicist confirmed Tuesday that he died while incarcerated at the California Medical Center.
In 1991, at the time of the drummer’s first parole hearing, Clapton told Rolling Stone about his friend’s mental struggles during the height of his success, and he thought he was simply drugged.
“I had no idea that he had a psychotic history of visions and hearing voices, from a young age,” Clapton, now 77, told Rolling Stone.
‘That was never evident when we worked together. They just seemed like bad vibes, the worst kind of bad vibes. He would never have said that he was going crazy. For me, it was just the drugs.
Gordon leaves no family. Clapton has yet to comment on his death.