2023-03-17 22:40:05

Jim Gordon, Top Rock Drummer With a Troubled Life, Dies at 77

Logo The New York Times
The New York Times
By Richard Sandomir

He was an elite studio musician who played with A-list artists and helped write the Eric Clapton hit Layla." But his life was shattered by mental illness and a murder conviction.

Jim Gordon, a talented but troubled drummer who was ubiquitous in the recording studios of the 1960s and 70s and who, as a member of Eric Claptons band Derek and the Dominos, helped write the romantic ballad Layla but who suffered from schizophrenia and spent nearly 40 years in prison, convicted of murdering his mother died on Monday in a prison medical facility in Vacaville, Calif. He was 77.

His death was announced by Robert Merlis, a publicist for Joel Selvin, the author of a forthcoming biography of Mr. Gordon. Mr. Selvin said he did not know the cause.

When people say that Jim Gordon is the greatest rock n roll drummer who ever lived, Mr. Clapton wrote in Clapton: The Autobiography (2007), I think its true, beyond anybody.

Tall and muscular, with a head full of curly hair, Mr. Gordon first attracted attention in 1963 on an English tour with the Everly Brothers. Over the next 15 years, he worked on studio recordings with A-list artists, including John Lennon (Imagine), George Harrison (All Things Must Pass), the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds), Harry Nilsson (Nilsson Schmilsson), Carly Simon (No Secrets) and Steely Dan (Pretzel Logic).

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