At the age of 77, Jim Gordon, a Grammy-winning rock drummer best known for his collaborations with Eric Clapton and George Harrison, passed suddenly. After “a long incarceration and lifelong fight with mental illness,” the artist passed away of natural causes at a California medical facility in Vacaville, according to a statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Gordon first rose to fame as the Derek and The Dominos’ blues rock band’s drummer. After that, he worked with several other well-known performers, such as Steely Dan, Alice Cooper, Tom Petty, and Tom Waits. When he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1983, his life took a tragic turn after he killed his mother at the age of 72.
He was given a sentence of 16 years to life in prison for his crimes. There will always be a place in music history for Gordon’s contributions to the 1971 hit song “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos, which he co-wrote with Clapton and for which he won his one and only Grammy Award.
James Gordon spent his entire life battling addiction and mental illness. He allegedly attacked Rita Coolidge, a singer, and his then-girlfriend in the 1970s, according to Variety. After killing his mother in 1983, Gordon recalled having voices in his head and compared the horrifying experience to “being led by a zombie.”
Eric Clapton said to Rolling Stone in 1991, “I had no idea that he had a psychotic background of seeing visions and hearing voices, from a young age. But he continued, “That was never obvious while we were working together. There seemed to be only the worst kind of awful vibes present. I would never have said he was nuts. To me, it was simply the drugs.
Despite coming from a challenging upbringing, Gordon’s drumming abilities were highly regarded. He came in at number 59 on Rolling Stone’s list of the top 100 drummers in history. In addition to his collaborations with some of the top rock performers in the industry, Gordon was a role model in the hip-hop scene. According to Rolling Stone, DJ Kool Herc used the drum solo by Gordon from the R&B song “Apache” by the Incredible Bongo Band to motivate Bronx dancers. Everyone started searching for the right rhythm in an effort to beat that record, Herc explained. They still are unable to beat that mark.