Jim Gordon, a drummer who played on Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and other assorted love songs and the beach boys Animal sounds, died Monday at the age of 77. The musician, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was serving a prison sentence for murdering his mother in 1983, died at a state-run medical facility in Vacaville, California. A publicist, Bob Merlis, told Los Angeles Times that Gordon died of natural causes.
Gordon is best known for sharing a songwriting credit for “Layla” with Eric Clapton, as he was responsible for the song’s famous piano coda. (Organizer Bobby Whitlock has alleged that Gordon plagiarized the role of something Gordon’s ex-girlfriend, Rita Coolidge, had written. Coolidge also accused Gordon of physical abuse.)
For the layla although Gordon – who was born James Beck Gordon on July 14, 1945 and grew up in Sherman Oaks, California – was known as a member of the group of session players called the Wrecking Crew. His drumming can be heard on recordings by John Lennon, Cher, the Byrds, Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Neil Diamond, George Harrison, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mel Torme and many others. He can be heard on Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas,” and Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind,” according to the Time.
In the mid-1970s, Gordon started having problems with addiction. “I think I was an alcoholic,” he said Rolling stone in 1985. “I used to drink every night, but I didn’t get up in the morning to have a drink; I would stick a needle in my arm. When I stopped taking heroin, I started drinking all day.” He began to hear voices in his head and in the late 1970s his mother urged him to seek help. He went to a psychiatric hospital, where he told doctors that his mother was “the only friend” he had.
“He used to talk to me about hearing voices, but I told him it was his consciousness talking to him,” Whitlock said. Rolling stone in 2013. “He said it was someone else. Apparently he never stopped or even eased his drug and alcohol use. The end result was the destruction of his family.”
On June 3, 1983, Gordon killed his mother, Osa Marie Gordon, with a hammer and butcher knife. The following year he was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. “I had no interest in killing [my mother]Gordon said Rolling stone in 1985. “I wanted to stay away from her. I had no choice. It was so obvious, like I was being led like a zombie. She wanted me to kill her, and goodbye.”
“I had no idea he had a psychotic history of visions and hearing voices from an early age,” Clapton said. Rolling stone in 1991. “That was never clear when we worked together. It just seemed like bad vibes, the worst kind of bad vibes. I would never have said he was going crazy. For me it was just the drugs.”
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