LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jim Gordon, the famed session drummer who backed up Eric Clapton and The Beach Boys before being diagnosed with schizophrenia and going to prison for killing his mother, has died. He was 77 years old.
Gordon died Monday at the California Medical Center in Vacaville, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed Thursday. He is believed to have died of natural causes, but the official cause will be determined by the Solano County Coroner.
Gordon was the drummer for the blues-rock supergroup Derek and the Dominos, led by Clapton. He played on their 1970 double album «Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs» and toured with them.
Gordon was credited for contributing the elegiac piano coda for «Layla». The group’s keyboardist, Bobby Whitlock, later claimed that Gordon took the piano tune from his then-girlfriend, singer Rita Coolidge, and did not credit her.
Coolidge wrote in her 2016 memoir «Delta Lady» that the song was called «Time» when she and Gordon wrote it. They played it for Clapton when they went to England to record with him.
“I was furious,” Coolidge wrote. “What they clearly did was take the song that Jim and I had written, discard the lyrics, and add them to the end of Eric’s song. It was almost the same arrangement.”
Coolidge said he took solace in the fact that royalties from Gordon’s songs went to his daughter, Amy.
Gordon can be heard on George Harrison’s first post-Beatles album «All Things Must Pass», on The Beach Boys’ album «Pet Sounds» and on Steely Dan’s 1974 song «Rikki Don’t Lose That Number».
He has also worked with Joan Baez, Jackson Browne, The Byrds, Judy Collins, Alice Cooper, Crosby Stills & Nash, Delaney & Bonnie, Neil Diamond, Art Garfunkel, Merle Haggard, Hall & Oates, Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Barbra Streisand, among others.
Gordon’s mental health eventually declined.
In 1970, Gordon was part of Joe Cocker’s famous «Mad Dogs & Englishmen» tour, along with Coolidge, then a backup singer before launching a successful solo career.
She wrote in her memoirs that one night in a hotel corridor, Gordon punched her in the eye «so hard that I was lifted off the floor and slammed against the wall across the hall.» She was briefly knocked unconscious.
It wasn’t until after his second-degree murder arrest that Gordon was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Gordon was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole. However, he was denied parole several times after failing to attend any of the hearings and remained in prison until his death.
Born James Beck Gordon on July 14, 1945, in the Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, he began his professional career at age 17 supporting The Everly Brothers.
Gordon was a member of The Wrecking Crew, a famous group of Los Angeles session musicians who played on hundreds of hits in the 1960s and ’70s.
He was a protégé of drum legend Hal Blaine.
“When I didn’t have time, I would recommend Jim,” Blaine told Rolling Stone in 1985. “He was a great drummer. I thought he was one of the real takers.