Jim Gordon, Drummer for Eric Clapton — And Convicted Murderer — Dies at 77

Jim Gordon, Drummer for Eric Clapton — And Convicted Murderer — Dies at 77

Jim Gordon, drummer for Eric Clapton and George Harrison, convicted of murdering his mother in 1983, has died at 77.

Jim Gordon, a top drummer for Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos, George Harrison, and many others, has died at 77. Gordon reportedly died Monday of natural causes at California Medical Facility in Vacaville after a lengthy incarceration and lifelong battle with mental illness.

A member of Clapton’s band, Derek and the Dominos, Gordon is credited as co-writer of the 1970 classic, “Layla.” He played on hundreds of songs as part of the group of elite session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew.

Born in 1945, Jim Gordon was raised in California’s San Fernando Valley. He began playing drums as a child, playing with rock bands and the Burbank Symphony as a teenager. He was offered a music scholarship to UCLA but instead joined the Everly Brothers for an overseas tour after graduating high school in 1963.

Gordon played on countless rock songs throughout the 1960s and ’70s, including hits from the Beach Boys, George Harrison, Steely Dan, Carly Simon, John Lennon, Gordon Lightfoot, Sonny and Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Tom Waits, Tom Petty, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper, The Byrds — even the Incredible Bongo Band’s 1972 song “Apache,” featuring one of the most sampled drum breaks in hip-hop. He toured with artists like Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and Derek and the Dominoes.

Arguably one of the greatest rock drummers of his era, unfortunately, Gordon’s lifelong and inadequately treated mental illness combined with substance abuse resulted in his assaulting at least two girlfriends in the ’70s. While he received outpatient treatment for his condition on more than one occasion, his erratic behavior and paranoia persisted.

After weeks of threatening behavior, Gordon bludgeoned and stabbed his 72-year-old mother to death on June 3, 1983, claiming that voices told him to do so. He was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison in 1984. Gordon was up for parole multiple times in the following years but was denied.

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