Jim Gordon, a Wrecking Crew session drummer and member of Eric Clapton’s band Derek and the Dominos who was diagnosed with schizophrenia after murdering his mother, has died at the age of 77.
In 1983, Gordon murdered his mother in a psychotic episode. He was sentenced to 16 years to life, but never showed up for any of his parole hearings. As of this year, he was serving his sentence at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, where he died of natural causes on Wednesday (March 15th), as confirmed by a representative.
Born James Beck Gordon in Southern California, he began playing drums in his early teens and quickly developed a reputation as a talented and versatile musician. His big break came in the late 1960s when he was hired as a session drummer for The Everly Brothers.
With legendary drummer Hal Blaine as his mentor, Gordon became a member of the group of session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew and played on albums including The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and The Byrds’ The Notorious Byrd Brothers.
In 1970, while participating in the sessions for George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, Gordon formed Derek and the Dominos alongside Eric Clapton, Carl Radle, and Bobby Whitlock. The short-lived blues rock group recorded and released their lone album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, before breaking up in early 1971. The album’s title track, which Gordon co-wrote, is widely considered one of the greatest songs in rock music history.
Gordon spent the 1970s working with some of the biggest names in music, including Tom Waits (The Heart of Saturday Night), Tom Petty (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Frank Zappa (Apostrophe (‘)) Harry Nilsson (Nilsson Schmilsson), and Steely Dan (Pretzel Logic), among many others.
In June 1983, Gordon attacked and killed his 72-year-old mother, Osa Marie Gordon. He claimed that a voice told him to kill her, and he was subsequently diagnosed with acute schizophrenia. However, due to California’s Insanity Defense Reform Act, he was unable to use insanity as a defense.