Jim Gordon, Drummer Who Co-Wrote “Layla” and Murdered His Mother, Dead at 77

Jim Gordon, a drummer with a co-writing credit on the hit song “Layla,” and who murdered his mother after suffering from schizophrenia, died on Monday (March 13). He was 77 years old.

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A spokesman confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that Gordon died of natural causes. News of Gordon’s death came out a few days after the musician passed earlier in the week.

The drummer had played on the Derek and the Dominos’ album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. He also played on the famed album from the Beach Boys, Pet Sounds.

Gordon, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was serving a sentence in jail for killing his mother, 40 years ago, in 1983. He passed away in a state-run medical facility in Vacaville, California. Though the court at the time recognized he suffered from mental illness, he was not allowed to plead insanity, due to the California laws at the time.

He also suffered from drug addiction during his lifetime. He shot heroin regularly before giving that up and turning to a life of drinking daily. “I guess I was an alcoholic,” he said told Rolling Stone in 1985.

Gordon has a songwriting credit on the Eric Clapton hit, “Layla,” for writing the song’s piano ending. Even that includes some controversy. Organ player Bobby Whitlock has said in the past that Gordon stole the part from something the drummer’s former girlfriend, Rita Coolidge, had written. Coolidge also said that Gordon physically abused her.

Born on July 14, 1945, Gordon is from Sherman Oaks, California. He began his musical career at 17 years old, passing up a scholarship with UCLA to perform with the Everly Brothers. During his career, he performed in the legendary backing band, the Wrecking Crew. He previously recorded with acts such as Cher, John Lennon, the Byrds, Joan Baez, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Yoko Ono, George Harrison, Tom Petty, and Carly Simon, among many others.

By the 1970s, he started to hear voices in his head (including his mother’s). His mother advised him to get help. Sadly, on June 3, 1983, Gordon murdered his own mother, Osa Marie Gordon, with a hammer and knife. He was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. He told Rolling Stone, “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 2017, he was rediagnosed with schizophrenia. The following year, he was denied parole for the 10th time.

“I had no idea that he had a psychotic history of visions and hearing voices, from an early age,” Clapton told Rolling Stone of his relationship with Gordon in 1991. “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.”

. Photo by Brian Cooke/Redferns

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