Jim Gordon, a drummer who played for several big-shot singers and music albums, has been quite an infamous name in history. The exceptionally skilled drummer, who soared high in his career, was convicted of killing his mother.
He was sentenced to imprisonment and has been there since the judgment passed. He passed away on 13th March 2023. He was in a state-run medical facility in Vacaville, California during his last moments. His death was stated to be of natural causes.
Life Synopsis of The Infamous Artist
Jim was born on July 14, 1945, in Sherman Oaks, California, and grew up there. In the early years, he was a member of a group of session players called the Wrecking Crew, a protégé of drum legend Hal Blaine.
“When I didn’t have the time,” Blaine said in an interview in 1985, “I recommended Jim. He was one hell of a drummer. I thought he was one of the real comers.”
His drumming was amazing and soon enough he climbed high up the career ladder. His work became popular and immediately he was playing for many big artists.
Jim’s drumming features on recordings by John Lennon, Cher, the Byrds (The Notorious Byrd Brothers), Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits (The Heart of Saturday Night), Neil Diamond, George Harrison (All Things Must Pass), Yoko Ono, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mel Torme, and many others.
He can be heard on Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas,” and Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind.”
One of his best works remains the songwriting credit on “Layla” with Eric Clapton, as he was credited for the song’s famous piano coda. The album was a hit and Gordon was considerably praised for it.
(Much to everyone’s dismay, there have been claims from Organist Bobby Whitlock that the piano coda was a plagiarized creation of Gordon. Jim was accused of creating it based on something that his girlfriend, Rita Coolidge, had written. She had also accused him of physical abuse.)
Jim has also played the drums for half of Harry Nilsson’s classic Nilsson Schmillson, and played the iconic drum solo on the album’s “Jump Into the Fire.”
His precision was so coveted, that he was even ranked 59 on Rolling Stone‘s list of 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time. His highly-regarded skills even made him a go-to session drummer for some of rock’s most notorious perfectionists, including Frank Zappa and Steely Dan.
However, his addiction to alcohol and drugs took a toll on him, and his career turned short-lived.
The Downfall of Gordon’s Drumming Career
Jim Gordon was at the peak of his career and everything was perfect. However, he started having trouble with addiction by the mid-seventies.
“I guess I was an alcoholic,” he said during an interview in 1985. “Before, I was drinking every night, but I wasn’t getting up in the morning for a drink; I would put a needle in my arm. When I stopped taking the heroin, I began to drink all day.”
His addiction deteriorated his condition and started hearing voices in his head. By the late-Seventies, his mother started urging him to get some help. He voluntarily checked into a psychiatric hospital. During the process, he told the doctors that his mom was “the only friend” he had.
Whitlock (who accused Jim of plagiarism) also stated that “He used to talk to me about hearing voices, but I told him that it was his consciousness speaking to him. He said it was someone else. Evidently, he never stopped or even lightened up on his drug and alcohol intake. The end result was the destruction of his family.”
“I couldn’t cope with being outside anymore,” Gordon said. “The voices were chasing me around. Making me drive to different places. Starving me. I was only allowed one bite of food a meal. And, if I disobeyed, the voices would fill me with a rage, like the Hulk gets.”
Gordon’s mental health deterioration aligned with his career downfall. He began losing his standing in the music industry. Despite all this and the dozen trips to psychiatric hospitals, he was never diagnosed with a mental illness.
It was very late on, after his conviction, that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
When the voices in his head grew louder and louder, it began to be very difficult for Jim to live with them.
While Jim used to hear multiple voices, the most dominant was that of his mother’s, which had grown louder and more persistent in his head, he said, even threatening to destroy his gold records and forcing him to abscond from a gig as Paul Anka’s drummer during a Las Vegas residency.
As a result of all the mental chaos, Jim entirely lost his mental balance. He ended up murdering his mother, Osa Marie Gordon, on June 3rd, 1983. He killed her using a hammer and a butcher knife.
He was convicted the following year and was sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment.
In a conversation with a news outlet in 1985, he said, “I had no interest in killing [my mother]. I wanted to stay away from her. I had no choice. It was so matter-of-fact, like I was being guided like a zombie. She wanted me to kill her, and good riddance to her.”
In 1991, Clapton told the same media outlet: “I had no idea that he had a psychotic history of visions and hearing voices, from an early age. That was never apparent when we were working together. It just seemed like bad vibes, the worst kind of bad vibes. I would have never said that he was going mad. To me, it was just the drugs.”
Despite Jim being eligible for parole for decades, he never attended hearings on his behalf. Not even in 2013, or 2018 when a parole board deemed he still posed “an unreasonable risk of threat to public safety.”
Jim Gordon was a drumming legend back in the day. His career was amazing and he became a favorite of many big bands and singers. However, his addiction deteriorated his mental health.
He had schizophrenia and as a result, he ended up killing his mother after being tired of the voices in his head. He was convicted and has since been in prison. He passed away on March 13th, in a state-run facility due to natural causes.
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