Jim Gordon, rock drummer convicted in mother’s killing, dies at 77

Jim Gordon, a drummer who played with dozens of rock stars and shared songwriting credit on the hit “Lila” with Eric Clapton, but suffered from deep mental health crises and was convicted of murdering his mother. Spent the last four decades in detention, died on May 13. Prison medical facility in Vacaville, California. He was 77 years old.

The death was announced in a statement by his publicist, Bob Merlis. No reason was given.

Mr. Gordon’s contributions included the tracks of George Harrison the first post-Beatles album, “All Things Must Pass” (1970); Pledge of the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” album (1966) and Steely Dan’s 1974 The song “Don’t miss that number Ricky.”

At one point demand was so high for Mr. Gordon’s versatility – from bluesy backbeats to whip-crack licks – that he tripled the studio rate for a drummer. It expanded the genre as much as Glenn Campbell’s country-inspired essays (“Wichita Lineman,” 1968), Gordon Lightfoot’s Folky Ballads (“Sunset” 1974) and Frank Zappa’s rock-jazz fusion. Zappa gave Mr. Gordon the nickname “Skippy” as a playful jab during his sunny suburban upbringing in California.

Sitting at his drum kit, Mr. Gordon wowed Los Angeles-based musicians and fans alike The wrecking crewa group of largely anonymous studio players who were together. Stars at the top With his athletic, 6-foot-3 frame — and his fringe of curly hair — he could whip out the punch of swings and cymbals such as Joe Crocker And Tom Petty. Or he can add a sharp rhythm that compliments the song.

His work on the 1973 song by The Incredible Bongo Band “Apache” (a remake of the 1960 hit by Shadows) was discovered by hip-hop artists and became one of the most sampled drum breaks in history. 2012 documentary film “his pattern” Bongo Band’s version has been called “Hip-Hop’s National Anthem”.

Mr. Gordon, who also played keyboards, was credited with the second coda, led by the piano “Leila” Which appears in 1970. Album“Lila and Other Various Love Songs,” by Clapton’s band, Derek and the Dominos. (Rita Coolidge, a singer-songwriter, claims she helped write the song, but is denied credit.)

Even as Mr. Gordon’s fame grew, his increasingly erratic behavior made other musicians wary. On tour with Cocker in 1970, Coolidge accused him of assault. “It came out of nowhere,” Bill Janowitz quoted him in 2023 Biography of the musician Leon Russell.

Mr Gordon sought outpatient treatment for schizophrenic-type episodes – saying he heard voices telling him when to eat, what to wear and when to work. At times, he would also disappear on drugs and alcohol.

Offers and gigs are gone. In 1979, Mr. Gordon was in Las Vegas with Paul Anca’s band. After a few bars of the opening song, Mr. Gordon left the stage.

Shortly before midnight on June 3, 1983, Mr. Gordon arrived at the North Hollywood home of his 71-year-old mother, Osa Marie Gordon. According to police records, he hit her in the head four times with a hammer. She somehow got away with it. He then repeatedly stabbed her in the chest with a butcher knife, police said.

During his trial in 1984, psychologists testified that Mr. Gordon believed his mother was controlling him through voices in his head. According to testimony, he found that the sounds sometimes made it impossible for him to play the drums.

“This is not a murder case,” said his defense attorney, Scott Firstman. “This case is a tragedy.”

Mr. Gordon was. Convicted Convicted of second-degree murder and 16 years in prison. A California law, then new, barred the use of insanity as a defense. But Judge James Albracht noted Mr Gordon’s apparent “profound mental illness”.

Mr. Gordon was sent to inmate medical facilities for treatment of schizophrenia. Over the decades, parole was denied.

“When I remember the crime, it’s like a dream,” he said told The Washington Post in 1994. “I remember going through what happened in that space and time, and it was like I was going through it on another plane. It didn’t seem real.”

James Beck Gordon was born in Los Angeles on July 14, 1945, and grew up in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley as postwar suburbs grew. His father was an accountant, and his mother was a teacher.

He started playing drums as a child, making his first kit out of a garbage can. In his teens, he was in a local band that earned $10 a gig while also playing percussion in the Burbank Symphony. He was offered a music scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles. Instead, he joined Everly Brothers For a British tour in 1963 shortly after graduating from high school.

His exploitative habits were prominent. He would carefully unfold and fold his clothes even during a night out in hotels. Her money was carefully saved and tabulated – down to toothpaste expenses – inspired by her father’s meticulous bookkeeping. “He partied like a rock star, but managed his money like a CPA,” Martin Bowe wrote in a profile in the Post.

In the mid-1960s, the top studio drummer in Los Angeles, Hal Blaine, word got around that there was a budding new talent in town. Mr. Gordon soon chose his artists. He worked with Carly Simon. “You are so stupid” (1972) and on John Lennon “People Power” A track from the 1971 “Plastic Ono Band” album. The list went on: Harry Nelson, Nancy Sinatra, The Birds.

Later, from behind bars, Mr. Gordon dutifully handled his ongoing royalties from “Lila” and other duties that led to recurring payments such as “Apple Jam” session with Harrison.

Mr. Gordon marries Jill Gordon, a dancer. And Renee Armand, a singer, ended in divorce. Survivors include a daughter, Amy, from his first marriage;

In 1993, Mr. Gordon watched on television as Clapton accepted Best Rock Song. Grammy For the acoustic version of “Lyla” on their album “Unplugged” (1992). Mr. Gordon was featured as a songwriter on the Grammy program, but Clapton did not mention him in his acceptance speech.

Mr. Gordon held no grudges during an interview with The Post a year later.

“I would still like to play with Eric,” he said.

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