Jim Gordon, Derek and the Dominos Drummer, Dead at 77
Gordon’s passing was confirmed via press release, which noted he died of “natural causes” following “a long incarceration and lifelong battle with mental illness.”
Gordon was born and raised in Los Angeles. At 17, he was offered a scholarship to UCLA’s music program, but turned it down to instead join up with the Everly Brothers. So began a career that saw Gordon behind the drum kit for some of rock’s most celebrated releases.
In 1969 Gordon met Eric Clapton, as both musicians played in the backing band for Delaney & Bonnie. Clapton would later take Gordon – along with bassist Carl Radle and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock – for his new group, Derek and the Dominos. They first served as the backing band for George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass before recording their own, seminal album.
The group’s 1970 double LP, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, would become a landmark release, regularly ranked among the greatest rock albums of all time. Gordon played drums on all of the tracks, and even contributed piano on the album’s iconic single, "Layla,” which he co-wrote with Clapton.
Derek and the Dominos broke up in 1971 and never finished recording their second album. Gordon remained an in-demand drummer for many years, working with Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Traffic, Harry Nilsson and Frank Zappa. Gordon played Art Garfunkel’s 1973 album Angel Clare, Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic (1974) and contributed to three tracks on Alice Cooper's 1976 LP, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell. His further career credits included work with Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne, Neil Diamond, Hall & Oates, Randy Newman, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and John Lennon (that’s Gordon playing on “Power to the People”).
Though Gordon’s career was certainly impressive, his life took a dark and tragic side.
On June 3, 1983, Gordon stabbed and killed his 72-year-old mother. The drummer claimed that a voice inside his head told him to do it. After his arrest, the musician was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was later sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. Despite being eligible for parole since 1991, he remained incarcerated until the end of his life. Reports indicated Gordon was "seriously psychologically incapacitated" and "a danger when he is not taking his medication.”