The author of a book about Jim Gordon, the once in-demand session drummer who violently murdered his mother in 1983, said he wanted to bring the musician’s reputation back from infamy.

Gordon is heard on Derek & the Dominos’ “Layla,” Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman,” and also notched up credits with John Lennon, George Harrison, Frank Zappa, the Beach Boys, the Monkees and many others. “When people say that Jim Gordon is the greatest rock ’n’ roll drummer who ever lived, I think it’s true, beyond anybody,” Eric Clapton once said.

Gordon began to lose favor as undiagnosed schizophrenia took a hold of him, “his head crowded with a hellish gang of voices screaming at him, demanding obedience,” as the book synopsis reads.

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Shunned by his former colleagues. Gordon was working in a dive-bar band for $30 a night. He’d already instigated a number of violent incidents before he killed his mother. He was sentenced to life in a psychiatric prison, where he died in March 2023, aged 77.

Music journalist Joel Selvin told the Guardian that he’d struggled to secure a publisher for Drums & Demons: The Tragic Journey of Jim Gordon, such was the negativity attached to the name. “The guy got so little compassion,” Selvin said.

“I wanted readers to know just how impossible Jim’s life was and how brave he was in battling the disease. In one of his hallucinations, he thought he was in a jail cell that was on fire. To me, that was a metaphor for Jim’s whole life. For him, life was a jail cell that was always on fire.”

Noting Gordon’s incredible credits list, he added: “He wasn’t just a backbeat guy. He was a fully musical drummer who embedded his playing into the core of the composition.” He continued: “The level of intuition that Jim displayed in his playing requires a certain electro-chemical makeup. His highly personal style had to come from the same place in the brain that produced his schizophrenia.”

Jim Gordon Took Cocaine to ‘Feel Normal’

Selvin argued that Gordon found solace in his work. “The combination of the resonance of the drums and the rhythmic entertainment of the groove produces a hypnotic feeling that can lift you out. Nothing calms a schizophrenic faster than a Walkman and a pair of headphones. For Jim, the drums provided a place where the voices couldn’t follow.

“You would think that the massive amounts of cocaine he did would make things worse. But I talked to psychiatrists who said that it would normalize his dopamine levels. He was doing blow to feel normal.”

Selvin said he had another point to make: “To me, the single most astonishing fact of the research I did was that schizophrenia affects one in 100 people. Let that sink in: Multiple sclerosis affects one in 10,000! We see these people out in the street, hearing voices all the time. Their world is totally frightening. And I have nothing but compassion for them. Unfortunately, society doesn’t.”

Drums & Demons is published on Feb. 27 via Diversion Books.

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