HomeAmerican EntertainmentJim Gordon, Drummer for Eric Clapton and George Harrison, Dead at 77

Jim Gordon, Drummer for Eric Clapton and George Harrison, Dead at 77

by Samantha Whidden
Jim Gordon
(Photo by Jim McCrary/Redferns)

Jim Gordon, a drummer best known for his work with Eric Clapton and George Harrison, has reportedly passed away at the age of 77. Gordon was notably in prison for murder at the time of his death.

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According to Variety, Gordon died on Monday (March 12th) from natural causes at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California after a long incarceration and lifelong battle with mental illness. The drummer’s publicist, Bob Merlis, confirmed the news. The media outlet reported that Gordon was survived by his daughter, Amy.

Variety also revealed that Jim Gordon was a member of Eric Clapton’s band, Derek and the Dominos. He was also a credit co-writer for the hit ‘70s single Layla. He went on to become a member of Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” band. Gordon further his work by being one of the main drummers on George Harrison’s epochal ‘70s album All Things Must Pass. 

While he was known for his drumming talents, Gordon had struggled with mental illness. In 1970, he assaulted his girlfriend at the time, Rita Coolidge. Both of them were on tour with Cocker at the time of the incident. Coolidge stated at the time, “Jim said very quietly, so only I could hear, ‘Can I talk to you for just a minute?’ He meant he wanted to talk alone. So we walked out of the room together… And then he hit so hard that I was lifted off the floor and slammed against the wall on the other side of the hallway… It came from nowhere.” 

Jim Gordon’s Violence Side Came Out in 1983 When He Murdered His Own Mother

Coolidge described Gordon as being an amazing, charismatic guy. However, after what happened, she recognized the look in his eye and knew he was not “playing with a full deck.” 

More than a decade after the incident with Coolidge, Jim Gordon’s mental health took a turn for the worst. He was guilty of bludgeoning and stabbing his 72-year-old mother to death in 1983. The drummer stated that voices in his head told him to kill his mother and he was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia. In 1984, he was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

Gordon later spoke to Rolling Stone about the murder and how he had no interest in killing his mother. “I wanted to stay away from her,” he said. “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.”  

Gordon was first eligible for parole in 199. However, he was denied several times due to the musician not attending a parole hearing. He declined to attend his hearing in 2014 and was denied parole until at least 2018. Gordon was eventually rediagnosed with schizophrenia in 2017. He was serving his sentence at the California Medical Facility.