Jim Gordon: ‘Layla’ co-writer, session drummer, convicted murderer, dies

Session drummer and convicted murderer, Jim Gordon has died.

He was 77.

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Gordon had been sentenced to prison for killing his mother, The Los Angeles Times reported.

His publicist, Bob Merlis, confirmed his client’s death from natural causes “after a long incarceration and lifelong battle with mental illness.”

Gordon started his career in music the day he graduated high school in 1963 performing with the Everly Brothers, Variety reported.

Gordon played drums with some of the most iconic musicians and bands, including the Beach Boys, several former Beatles and Eric Clapton, with whom he formed the band Derek and the Dominoes. He also was listed as a co-writer for Clapton’s “Layla.”

He played drums on Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind,” the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” album and Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” the Times reported.

“Clapton always praised Jim for what he called ‘the big fill,’” Joel Selvin, rock music critic, told the Times. “And Ringo Starr thought he was the greatest rock drummer ever. 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 on.”

Selvin wrote a biography on Gordon that is set to be published in 2024.

But Gordon battled mental illness throughout his long career.

He was on tour with Joe Cocker when Gordon was accused of assaulting his then-girlfriend, singer Rita Coolidge, Variety reported.

Coolidge said of the incident, “Jim said very quietly, so only I could hear, ‘Can I talk to you for just a minute?’ He meant he wanted to talk alone. So we walked out of the room together … And then he hit me so hard that I was lifted off the floor and slammed against the wall on the other side of the hallway… It came from nowhere,” Variety reported.

Gordon rarely, however, showed that side of him, but Coolidge knew something was wrong.

“He was an amazing guy, just really so charismatic,” Coolidge said, according to Variety. “[But] after everything happened, I started to recognize that look in his eye and knew that he was not playing with a full deck.”

Gordan’s mental illness came to the forefront when he was convicted of murdering his mother in 1983 and was subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia, Variety reported.

He said voices told him to stab and beat his 72-year-old mother to death with a hammer. He was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. He was up for parole several times, but was denied, the Times reported.

Gordon died at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville on Monday, leaving behind his daughter, Amy, the Times reported.


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