VACAVILLE—Jim Gordon, the famed session drummer that was imprisoned for killing his mother, passed away at the age of 77 on Monday, March 13, at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed Thursday, March 16.
It is believed that Gordon died from natural causes, but the official cause has not been released by the Solano County Coroner.
Gordon started his career in 1963 and into the 1970s was a session musician who performed with many including Derek and Dominos which was led by guitarist Eric Clapton. He played on their 1970 double album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” and went on tour.
Gordon was credited with contributing the piano coda for “Layla.” The group’s keyboardist Bobby Whitlock later claimed Gordon took the piano melody from his then-girlfriend, singer Rita Coolidge, and didn’t give her credit. In Coolidge’s memoir she recounted: “I was infuriated. What they’d clearly done was take the song Jim and I had written, jettisoned the lyrics, and tacked it on to the end of Eric’s song. It was almost the same arrangement,” Coolidge wrote. Their relationship ended after a violent incident outside of the hotel between Coolidge and Gordon.
He was a member of The Wrecking Crew, a famed group of Los Angeles-based session musicians who performed with hundreds. Gordon collaborated with Joan Baez, Jackson Browne, The Byrds, Judy Collins, Alice Cooper, Crosby Stills & Nash, Delaney & Bonnie, Neil Diamond, Art Garfunkel, Merle Haggard, Hall & Oates, Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Barbra Streisand, among others.
He was a protégé of drum legend Hal Blaine.
“When I didn’t have the time, I recommended Jim,” Blaine told Rolling Stone in 1985. “He was one hell of a drummer. I thought he was one of the real comers.”
In the midst of Gordon’s career his mental health began to decline which resulted in the murder of his mother 71-year-old Osa Marie (Beck) Gordon back on June 3, 1983. She was attacked with a hammer and fatally stabbed with a butcher knife.
Gordon murdered his mother due to a psychotic episode associated with undiagnosed schizophrenia. According to reports, before the murder occurred Gordon began hearing multiple voices including his own mother’s. The voices compelled him to starve himself and prevented him from sleeping, relaxing or playing drums. He claimed that one of the voices ordered him to kill his mother.
It wasn’t until after his arrest for second-degree murder, that Gordon was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Earlier, doctors misdiagnosed him and instead treated him for alcohol abuse.
After the murder, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison on July 10, 1984. Gordon was first eligible for parole in 1991, but parole was denied several times as he never attended a parole hearing. In 2014, he declined to attend his hearing and was denied parole until at least 2018. A Los Angeles deputy district attorney stated at the hearing that Gordon was still “seriously psychologically incapacitated” and “a danger when he is not taking his medication.”