Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Jul 3rd 2008 5:00PM by James Sullivan
Based on his astounding track record, drummer Jim Gordon should be on any voter's short list for the honor. He played with the Byrds, the Everly Brothers and three-fourths of the Beatles and was a member of Traffic and Derek and the Dominos. He's one of the most sampled musicians of all time. He was even the original recording artist behind Animal, the Muppets' super-furry drummer.
But murdering your mama is a surefire way to find yourself in a different kind of institution.
Born in Los Angeles in 1945, James Beck Gordon was a natural talent. By the age of 17, he was already accompanying the Everly Brothers. Blaine, the legendary session man, soon began offering his young protégé gigs he couldn't make. By the end of the '60s, Gordon had played on albums by the Byrds and the Beach Boys and on Mason Williams' blockbuster instrumental, 'Classical Gas.'
But it was a chance opportunity to fill in for another standout drummer, Jim Keltner, that led to Gordon's true breakthrough. The blue-eyed-soul husband-and-wife team of Delaney & Bonnie hired Gordon; when their band joined forces with Eric Clapton, the short-lived supergroup Derek and the Dominos was born. Gordon set himself up for a lifetime of BMI checks when he contributed the gorgeous piano coda to the band's signature song, 'Layla.'
Through Clapton, Gordon played on George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' triple album, which in turn led to work with John Lennon (including the 'Imagine' LP) and Ringo Starr. At the same time, the drummer was bouncing wildly around the L.A. studio scene, from sessions with pop acts like Bread and the Carpenters to somewhat less commercial ventures such as Frank Zappa's. His work on the Incredible Bongo Band's 1973 album 'Bongo Rock' featured a percussion-heavy version of the song 'Apache,' which became a hip-hop staple adopted by pioneering DJs like Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash.
But the relentless pounding was evidently taking its toll. By the late 1970s, Gordon was becoming less and less reliable, struggling with mental illness. "The voices were chasing me around," he once recalled. "Making me drive to different places. Starving me. I was only allowed one bite of food a meal. And if I disobeyed, the voices would fill me with a rage, like the Hulk gets."
According to some accounts, he checked himself in and out of psychiatric hospitals as many as 14 times, complaining of oppressive voices in his head. One day in 1983, he snapped, murdering his own mother with a hammer and a butcher's knife. Institutionalized ever since, Jim Gordon reportedly hasn't touched a drum kit in years.