Jim Gordon, rock drummer convicted in mom’s killing, dies at 77

Jim Gordon, a drummer who performed with dozens of rock stars and shared songwriting credit with Eric Clapton on the hit “Layla,” however confronted deepening psychological well being crises and spent the previous 4 a long time in custody for killing his mom, died Could 13 at a jail medical facility in Vacaville, Calif. He was 77.

The demise was introduced in an announcement by his publicist, Bob Merlis. No trigger was given.

Mr. Gordon’s collaborations included tracks on George Harrison’s first post-Beatles album, “All Issues Should Move” (1970); the Seaside Boys’ epochal “Pet Sounds” album (1966) and Steely Dan’s 1974 music “Rikki Don’t Lose That Quantity.”

The demand was as soon as so excessive for Mr. Gordon’s versatility — from bluesy backbeats to whipcrack licks — that he commanded thrice the studio charge for drummers. He spanned genres as totally different as Glen Campbell’s country-influenced odes (“Wichita Lineman,” 1968), Gordon Lightfoot’s folksy ballads (“Sunset,” 1974) and Frank Zappa’s rock-jazz fusion. Zappa gave Mr. Gordon the nickname “Skippy” as a playful jab at his sunny suburban upbringing in California.

Sitting at his drum package, Mr. Gordon dazzled musicians and aficionados as a part of the Los Angeles-based Wrecking Crew, a bunch of largely nameless studio gamers who accompanied prime stars. Along with his athletic, 6-foot-3 body — and his mop of curly hair waving — he might pound out the skins-and-cymbals punch for rockers comparable to Joe Crocker and Tom Petty. Or he might lay down sharp-edged rhythms that outlined a music.

His work on the Unbelievable Bongo Band’s 1973 music “Apache” (a remake of a 1960 hit by the Shadows) was found by hip-hop artists and have become some of the sampled drum breaks in historical past. The 2012 documentary “Pattern This” referred to as the Bongo Band’s model “the nationwide anthem of hip-hop.”

Mr. Gordon, who additionally performed keyboards, was credited with the piano-led second coda of “Layla,” which seems on the 1970 album, “Layla and Different Assorted Love Songs,” by Clapton’s band, Derek and the Dominos. (Rita Coolidge, a singer and songwriter, claims that she helped write the music, however was denied credit score.)

At the same time as Mr. Gordon’s renown grew, his more and more erratic conduct made different musicians cautious. Whereas on tour with Cocker in 1970, he was accused by Coolidge of assaulting her. “It got here from nowhere,” she was quoted as saying in Invoice Janovitz’s 2023 biography of musician Leon Russell.

Mr. Gordon sought outpatient therapy over schizophrenic-type episodes — saying he heard voices that directed him when to eat, what to put on and when to work. At occasions, he additionally would disappear on drug and alcohol binges.

The gives and gigs trailed off. In 1979, Mr. Gordon was with Paul Anka’s band in Las Vegas. After a number of bars of the opening music, Mr. Gordon walked off the stage.

Simply earlier than midnight on June 3, 1983, Mr. Gordon arrived on the North Hollywood dwelling of his 71-year-old mom, Osa Marie Gordon. He struck her 4 occasions within the head with a hammer, police information mentioned. She one way or the other survived that. He then repeatedly plunged a butcher knife into her chest, police mentioned.

At his trial in 1984, psychiatrists testified that Mr. Gordon believed his mom was controlling him via a voice in his head. He felt the voices generally made it unimaginable for him to play the drums, in keeping with the testimony.

“This isn’t a homicide case,” mentioned his protection lawyer, Scott Furstman. “This case is a tragedy.”

Mr. Gordon was convicted of second-degree homicide and sentenced to 16 years in jail. A California legislation, new on the time, blocked using madness as a protection. However the choose, James Albracht, famous Mr. Gordon’s obvious “profound psychological sickness.”

Mr. Gordon was despatched to inmate medical amenities for therapy of schizophrenia. Over the a long time, parole was denied.

“After I keep in mind the crime, it’s sort of like a dream,” he instructed The Washington Submit in 1994. “I can keep in mind going via what occurred in that area and time, and it appears sort of indifferent, like I used to be going via it on another aircraft. It didn’t appear actual.”

James Beck Gordon was born in Los Angeles on July 14, 1945, and raised within the Sherman Oaks neighborhood within the San Fernando Valley as postwar suburbia swelled. His father was an accountant, and his mom was a instructor.

He began drumming as a toddler, making his first package out of rubbish cans. By his teenagers, he was in an area band incomes $10 a gig whereas additionally enjoying percussion within the Burbank Symphony. He was provided a music scholarship to the College of California at Los Angeles. As a substitute, he joined the Everly Brothers for a British tour quickly after graduating from highschool in 1963.

His fussy habits stood out. He would rigorously unpack and fold his garments at accommodations even on a one-night gig. His cash was rigorously saved and tabulated — right down to bills for toothpaste — influenced by his father’s meticulous bookkeeping. “He partied like a rock star, however managed his cash like a CPA,” wrote Martin Booe in a profile in The Submit.

Within the mid-Sixties, the highest studio drummer in Los Angeles, Hal Blaine, handed the phrase {that a} rising new expertise was on the town. Mr. Gordon quickly had his decide of artists. He labored with Carly Simon on “You’re So Useless” (1972) and John Lennon on “Energy to the Folks,” a monitor on the 1971 “Plastic Ono Band” album. The record saved rising: Harry Nilsson, Nancy Sinatra, the Byrds.

Later, from behind bars, Mr. Gordon dutifully managed his ongoing royalties from “Layla” and different work that introduced in recurring funds such because the “Apple Jam” session with Harrison.

Mr. Gordon’s marriages to Jill Gordon, a dancer, and Reneé Armand, a singer, led to divorce. Survivors embody a daughter, Amy, from his first marriage.

In 1993, Mr. Gordon watched on tv as Clapton accepted the very best rock music Grammy for an acoustic model of “Layla” on his album “Unplugged” (1992). Mr. Gordon was famous as a songwriter on the Grammy program, however Clapton didn’t point out him in his acceptance speech.

Mr. Gordon didn’t appear to carry any grudge throughout an interview with The Submit a 12 months later.

“I’d nonetheless prefer to play with Eric,” he mentioned.

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