Jim Gordon, the Grammy-winning rock drummer who worked with Eric Clapton and George Harrison, died at 77. The artist died of natural causes at a California Medical Center in Vacaville, according to a statement received by the Los Angeles Times, after “a long sentence and lifelong fight with mental illness.”
Gordon gained prominence as the drummer for the blues rock combo Derek and The Dominos. He later collaborated with several renowned performers, including Steely Dan, Alice Cooper, Tom Petty, and Tom Waits.
After murdering his 72-year-old mother, his life took a sad turn in 1983 when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was sentenced to 16 years to life in jail for his offenses.
Gordon is best known for his contributions to Derek and The Dominos’ 1971 song “Layla,” which he co-wrote with Clapton and for which he received his first and only Grammy Award.
Jim Gordon struggled with mental illness and addiction throughout his life. Variety said he abused his then-girlfriend and singer Rita Coolidge in the 1970s. After he murdered his mother in 1983, Gordon described hearing voices and claiming the ordeal was like “being guided by a zombie.”
“I had no notion that he had a crazy history of visions and hearing voices from an early age,” Eric Clapton told Rolling Stone in 1991. Yet, he continued, “It was never obvious while we were working together. It was just horrible vibrations, the worst kind of bad vibes. I would never have suggested he was insane. To me, it was all about the drugs.”
Gordon’s talents as a drummer were widely acknowledged despite his turbulent past. He was ranked 59th on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time. Gordon was an inspiration in hip-hop, in addition to his work with some of the industry’s top rock performers.
According to Rolling Stone, Gordon’s drum solo from the Incredible Bongo Band’s R&B single “Apache” influenced Bronx dancers. Herc explained, “Everyone began looking for the ideal beat, attempting to break that record. They are still unable to break that record to this day.”