When we think of the great musicians of the 20th century, names like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton come to mind. But behind these iconic figures stood a legion of talented session musicians - the unsung heroes of the music industry.
Among these unsung heroes was Jim Gordon, a drummer and percussionist whose soulful playing graced some of the most beloved and iconic albums of the 1960s and 1970s. With his impeccable timing, dynamic range, and instinctive sense of groove, Gordon left an indelible mark on the music of his era.
Born in 1945 in Los Angeles, Gordon was a child prodigy who began playing the drums at the age of four. By his teens, he was already an accomplished session musician, playing on recordings by artists like the Everly Brothers and the Monkees.
But it was in the late 1960s and early 1970s that Gordon truly came into his own as a session musician. He played on a staggering number of albums during this time, ranging from rock and pop to jazz and R&B.
Perhaps Gordon's most famous work was his contribution to Derek and the Dominos' classic album, "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs." His drumming on the album's title track is a masterclass in groove and dynamics, perfectly capturing the song's emotional intensity and raw passion.
But Gordon's talent and versatility extended far beyond rock and roll. He played on jazz albums by George Benson and Quincy Jones, soul records by the Temptations and Marvin Gaye, and pop hits by Carole King and Harry Nilsson.
Despite his incredible skill and influence, Gordon remained a humble and understated presence in the music world. He rarely sought the limelight, preferring instead to let his playing speak for itself.
But tragedy would ultimately derail Gordon's career and life. In 1983, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a condition that had gone undiagnosed for years. In 1984, he brutally murdered his mother, and died in prison in 2023.
The story of Jim Gordon is a reminder of the importance of recognizing and celebrating the contributions of session musicians. These behind-the-scenes players are often overlooked or forgotten, but their work is an essential part of the music we know and love.
And for those lucky enough to have heard Jim Gordon's playing, his soulful and dynamic style will always be remembered as a testament to the power and beauty of music.
Mike's maps (currently) featuring Jim Gordon: