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Legendary session drummer Jim Gordon dies at 77

Estate Of Keith Morris/Redferns

Jim Gordon, a top session drummer who played with some of rock’s biggest acts, including Derek and the DominoesJoe Cocker and George Harrison, died Monday from natural causes at California Medical Facility in Vacavillle, California, after a long incarceration and lifelong battle with mental illness, publicist Bob Merlis confirmed on Wednesday. Gordon was 77.

Gordon was a member of The Wrecking Crew, a group of Los Angeles session musicians who played on hundreds of pop hits in the late 1960s, including Glen Campbell‘s “Gentle on My Mind” and The Beach Boys‘ influential album, Pet Sounds. As a member of Eric Clapton‘s band Derek and the Dominos, he was credited with co-writing the group’s 1970 classic “Layla.” He was also a member of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen group, as well as Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, and he was one of the main drummers on George Harrison’s 1970 album All Things Must Pass.

Gordon’s other credits include songs and albums by John LennonHarry NilssonTrafficSteely DanSeals & Crofts and Carly Simon. Gordon’s drum solo on the Incredible Bongo Band’s version of “Apache” is one of the most sampled drum breaks in hip-hop history.

However, Gordon also had a history of mental illness. While touring with Cocker in 1970, he assaulted his then girlfriend, singer Rita Coolidge. In 1983, Gordon bludgeoned and then stabbed his 72-year-old mother to death, claiming that voices told him to do so. A year later, he was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. He was up for parole multiple times, which was denied. 

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