James "Jim" Gordon, a drummer who co-wrote Layla with Eric Clapton and performed on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, has died aged 77.
The US musician died at the California Medical Facility, a medical and psychiatric prison. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was serving a life sentence for murdering his mother in 1983.
Gordon was a student of Hal Blaine, who is thought to be one of the most recorded studio drummers in the industry. Gordon was prolific in the 1960s, performing on several hit albums including Pet Sounds (1966), Gene Clark’s Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers (1967) and The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968) by The Byrds.
In 1970, Gordon joined the band Derek and the Dominos with Clapton. The group released their revered double album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Gordon was credited as a writer for the title track. Besides performing drums on it, he was also reputedly behind the plaintive piano segment concluding the track. Later, however, the band’s keyboardist Bobby Whitlock claimed that Gordon had plagiarised the melody from his then-girlfriend Rita Coolidge.
Over the next decade, Gordon would perform live and in the studio with several acclaimed musicians, from Joe Cocker and Dave Mason to Alice Cooper, Traffic and Frank Zappa.
In the early 1980s, Gordon started developing schizophrenia. His condition was first misdiagnosed as alcohol abuse. In June 1983, he attacked his mother, aged 72, with a hammer before fatally stabbing her. He claimed a "voice" forced him to kill her.
Only after his arrest was his condition properly diagnosed. However, Gordon was not allowed to use the insanity defence during trial due to the Insanity Defence Reform Act, and he was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. He was denied parole several times as he never attended the hearings.