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Jim Gordon, famous session drummer convicted of murdering his mother, dies at 77

Jim Gordon, the prolific session drummer who played with some of rock’s biggest stars, including the Beach Boys, several Beatles and Eric Clapton, whose classic “layla” credited with co-authoring, before being sentenced to prison for killing his mother, died Monday at California State Medical Center in Vacaville. He was 77 years old.

His death was confirmed by a publicist, Bob Merlis, who said Gordon died of natural causes “after a long imprisonment and a lifelong battle with mental illness.”

A Los Angeles native, Gordon was a member of the so-called Wrecking Crew of studio musicians who shaped the sound of countless pop hits in the late 1960s; records he appeared on include Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind,” Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas,” and the Beach Boys’ influential “Pet Sounds” LP. In the 1970s, he played on Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” a No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart; Albert Hammond’s “It Never Rains in Southern California” and Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” plus songs and albums by John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, Traffic, Van Dyke Parks, Seals & Crofts, Art Garfunkel and much others.

Gordon’s drum break in the Incredible Bongo Band’s rendition of “Apache” from 1973 became a seminal hip-hop sampler used in more than 750 songs, according to the WhoSampled website, including tracks by the Sugarhill Gang, MC Hammer, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Wu-Tang Clan and Nas.

“Clapton always praised Jim for what he called ‘the great filler,'” said veteran rock critic Joel Selvin, whose biography of Gordon will be published next year. “And Ringo Starr thought he was the greatest rock drummer of all time. It wasn’t just his surgical skill and his extraordinarily developed technique, but this intuitive element that elevated his drum part on every record he played.”

James Beck Gordon was born on July 14, 1945 and grew up in Sherman Oaks; his father was an accountant and his mother a nurse. After learning to play the drums in high school, he landed a gig at age 17, “with the help of a fake ID,” according to a 1994 profile in the Washington Post, supporting the Everly Brothers on tour in England. . Later, his session work led to a job with Delaney & Bonnie, the soul-rock group whose guitarist at the time was Clapton; Gordon and Clapton went on to form Derek and the Dominos, whom he was first heard playing behind George Harrison on his 1970 triple album “All Things Must Pass.”

Derek and the Dominos released a studio album, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”, in 1970; its seven-minute title track, which was inspired by Clapton’s infatuation with Harrison’s then-wife Pattie Boyd, reached the top 10 of the US and UK singles charts. Gordon also toured in the early ’70s as a member of Joe Cocker’s famous band Mad Dogs & Englishmen, during which he was in a relationship with singer Rita Coolidge, who wrote in her 2016 memoir that Gordon physically abused her. she. (It is also widely believed that Gordon took credit for Coolidge’s contribution to “Layla.”)

In 1983, Gordon, known to friends and family for being “haunted,” as the Post put it, by the voices in his head, killed his mother, Osa Marie Gordon, by beating her with a hammer before stabbing her with a knife. Butcher. .

“When I remember the crime, it’s like a dream,” he told the Post. “I remember going through what happened in that space and time, and it seems a little distant, like I’m going through another plane. It didn’t seem real.”

Gordon, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was sentenced in 1984 to between 16 years and life in prison. He was denied parole on several occasions.

He is survived by his daughter Amy from his first of two marriages.