Jim Gordon, a Grammy-winning rock drummer best known for his work with George Harrison and Eric Clapton, has passed away at the age of 77. The artist died of natural causes at a California medical facility in Vacaville after “a long incarceration and lifelong fight with mental illness,” according to a statement received by the Los Angeles Times.
Gordon first gained notoriety as the drummer for the blues rock combo Derek and The Dominos. Thereafter, he collaborated with a number of other well-known musicians, including Steely Dan, Alice Cooper, Tom Petty, and Tom Waits. After killing his mother, at age 72, his life took a catastrophic turn in 1983 when he was given a schizophrenia diagnosis.
For his offenses, he received a sentence of 16 years to life in jail. Gordon’s contributions to the 1971 smash song “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos, which he co-wrote with Clapton and for which he received his first and only Grammy Award, will be remembered.
James Gordon battled with mental illness and addiction throughout his entire. According to Variety, he assaulted Rita Coolidge, a singer, and his then-girlfriend, in the 1970s. Gordon described how he had voices in his brain after he killed his mother in 1983, saying the gruesome experience was like “being led by a zombie.”
“I had no notion that he had a schizophrenic history of seeing visions and hearing voices, from a young age,” Eric Clapton told Rolling Stone in 1991. But he continued, “While we were working together, that was never clear. Only the worst type of terrible vibes seemed to be present. I never would have claimed that he was insane. It was just the drugs to me.”
Despite having a difficult background, Gordon’s skills as a drummer were highly esteemed. On Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest drummers of all time, he was ranked No. 59. Gordon was a role model in the hip-hop community in addition to his collaborations with some of the biggest rock musicians in the business. According to Rolling Stone, DJ Kool Herc used Gordon’s drum solo from the Incredible Bongo Band’s R&B song “Apache” to inspire Bronx dancers. Herc revealed, “Everyone began looking for the ideal rhythm in an effort to top that record. They are still unable to surpass that record.”