Jim Gordon, the Drummer Whose Voices Fractured His Psyche

In the 1960s, every musician in LA’s music scene wanted to have Jim Gordon on their team. He was a drummer like no other, playing with legendary figures like George Harrison, John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Joe Cocker, and more. But something weird was happening to Jim. Something terribly disturbing.

Jim Gordon / Rita Coolidge / Jim Gordon / Jim Gordon, George Harrison.
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He began accusing his bandmates of moving his hands from across the room. Gradually, it became impossible to work with him. Finally, on June 3rd, 1983, the voices in the drummer’s head had completely taken over his soul, leading him to do an unthinkable act.

The Voices Pushed Him to Do It

In the summer of 1983, the voices in James’ head told him to kill his mother. One whispered, “hit her with a hammer first” so she wouldn’t suffer as much when he stabbed her. James obeyed. He grabbed a hammer and knife and headed out that afternoon to his mother’s North Hollywood apartment.

An image of a man screaming behind a transparent fabric.
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When he got to her place, she wasn’t there yet, so he returned home and waited patiently. At around 11:30 pm, he returned. The lights in the house were on, and when he knocked on the door, he could hear his mom pacing across the floor in her slippers.

When She Opened the Door…

Jim Gordon glimpsed at the 72-year-old, gray-haired woman standing in front of him. “Jim,” his mom let out, right before he hit her. As she cried and yelled out in fear, the crazed drummer pounded her down with the hammer.

A dated portrait of Jim Gordon.
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When she collapsed to the floor, he grabbed his knife and plunged it into her chest three times. Then, he left it there, jammed into her chest. James wasn’t going to get away with this, and he would quickly find himself in cuffs and standing trial for murder.

Was He Fit to Stand Trial?

During his trial in Los Angeles, James Beck Gordon was accused and found guilty of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to sixteen years to life. Representing him, the defense argued insanity. However, one California law made it nearly impossible to prove he was legally insane.

A mugshot of Jim Gordon.
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Despite the tough law, neither the judge nor the prosecution disagreed with the diagnosis that James Beck Gordon was a paranoid schizophrenic. There was, however, one person who did. Gordon himself. “They call everybody that,” he complained in a prison meeting room at California’s Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.

He Didn’t Feel Crazy at All

While talking about his case, James Beck Gordon struggled to accept his diagnosis. “I really don’t feel that crazy,” he told reporters from Rolling Stone. “I get along with people. I think I’m pretty normal,” he said in a soft, calm manner.

A photo of Jim Gordon.
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In prison, Gordon was given a powerful antipsychotic to take on a daily basis, and he reported that it helped him feel better about himself. But he still believed he didn’t actually need the pills. Sadly, his mind being healthy was one of his delusions.

A Psychosis Ate Away at His Sanity

According to his fellow musicians and friends, killing his mother was only the final act in Gordon’s long string of mad behavior. Over the course of his life, there had been several disturbing eruptions that provided clear signs of psychosis eating away his sanity.

A photo of Jim Gordon during the trial.
Source: Rolling Stone

But a lot of the signs were overlooked by those around Gordon. In the business of making rock music acting out like a crazy person was considered to be quite ordinary. Being maddeningly creative and a loony free spirit was just part of being a rockstar.

Just Another Californian Hunk

Before the voices took over, James Beck Gordon was just another California golden hunk with blond curls and a beefy build. He lived in a small house in Sherman Oaks, a peaceful community in LA’s San Fernando Valley.

A dated portrait of Jim Gordon in his garage.
Source: Pinterest

As a child, James and his older brother John would mow the lawn, shine their dad’s black shoes, and always mind their manners. Whenever they spoke, it was always with a “Thank You” or a “Please” or an “Excuse Me.”

His Mother Took Over

At the age of eight, James crafted a set of drums out of a few trash cans and performed in front of his brother. Instead of throwing the cans away, his parents paid for his first music lessons. By the age of twelve, he had his own set of drums and a room of his own to play them in.

An image of Jim Gordon outside his house.
Source: Pinterest

On the outside, the family’s life seemed quite perfect. But within closed walls, a tragic reality plagued the members. James’ father was a raging alcoholic, and his mother was doing her best to keep the family together. Ultimately, James’ father joined Alcoholics Anonymous and became a full-time, functioning father.

He Never Felt at Home

“They were good parents,” Gordon told Rolling Stone. But despite their kind treatment, the young drummer still felt a bit off. Even though he played frequently with his older brother and was given special treatment by his parents for being the youngest, he still felt quite left out.

A photo of Jim Gordon playing the drums.
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Eating was James’ way to cope with his insecurities, although the excessive indulging made things worse. He grew heavy and became extra sensitive about his weight. There was just one comfort he could turn to – the voices in his head. They appeared when he was a kid and became his companions.

He Was Elected Class President

“Those voices were totally within the realm of reality for a small boy,” one of the psychiatrists defending him in the trial, Dr. William Vicary, stated, “but they were also indicative of the paranoiac insecurities he would fall prey to later.”

A dated portrait of Jim Gordon behind the drums.
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As he grew older, Gordon became a handsome yet introverted young man. Despite his shyness, he was adored by his classmates, who elected him class president in his junior high. But Gordon didn’t care much for his social status. He preferred to play music instead.

Gordon the Drummer

While in high school, Gordon jammed with the Burbank Symphony, toured Europe and took part in the Tournament of Roses Parade. Using a fake ID, Gordon took on several music gigs at small clubs and events.

A photo of Jim Gordon in rehearsal with George Harisson.
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He started playing on the weekends with a band called Frankie Knight and the Jesters. The group performed in clubs around Hollywood and West LA for about five dollars a night. They barely made any money, but Gordon felt like he got more out of it than cash. When he played, the voices receded.

He Took On Whatever Job He Could Get

Gordon’s parents insisted he go to college, and Gordon decided he would become a music teacher. He was offered a music scholarship at UCLA, but he turned down the offer. He wasn’t going to spend four years “locked away” in school.

A photo of Jim Gordon during a rehearsal.
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For an up and rising musician in the early ’60s, the Los Angeles studio scene was the place to be. Huge producers like Phil Spector were creating iconic hits, rolling out golden records for the Ronettes and the Crystals. Gordon decided to pounce on whatever project he could get.

He Went on Tour With the Everly Brothers

Gordon began climbing his way up the ladder and gradually got himself noticed. Everyone around town was hunting for talent, and the venues where Gordon played in the evenings were full of scouts. One person who took notice of him was a bass player who jammed with the Everly Brothers.

A photo of Jim Gordon with his band during a performance.
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The Everly Brothers were getting ready for a summer tour around in England in 1963, and they wanted Gordon to be their drummer. Even though his parents disapproved, and the pay wasn’t very high, Gordon jumped on the opportunity.

His Name Was on Everyone’s Lips

The tour with the Everly Brothers was a success, and when he returned home, the eager drummer announced that he had found his calling – he was going to make performing his career. To break into the scene, he began hanging out at the A&B Corned Beef restaurant, where many musicians met up during their studio breaks.

An image from the Everly Brothers’ performance.
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Whenever he had the chance, he made sure to grab a sandwich and absorb whatever he could from the great musicians who sat around him. After a while, he became one of the guys. Hal Blaine, a respected drummer from Los Angeles, said that he recalled hearing Gordon’s name “on everybody’s lips.”

A Living Metronome

“[James] was one hell of a drummer. I thought he was one of the real comers,” Hal Blaine stated. Gordon was a “living metronome” with a “knack for hitting the sweet spot.” Like Hal Blaine, James was juggling two or three recording sessions in a day, six days a week.

A photo of Hal Blaine.
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The more money he earned, the better his equipment got and the better his sound became. Before long, James was scheduling concerts with Judy Collins, Bobby Darin, Gary Puckett, and the Union Gap. The money was rolling in, and for a while, he seemed to be handling it well.

His First Wife, Jill

In 1964, Gordon tied the knot with an enchanting dancer named Jill. In many ways, they were an ideal couple. They bonded over their love of music, and both scored jobs on the TV rock show named Shindig. Together, they saved up enough money and purchased a house in North Hollywood.

A photo of Jim Gordon during a concert.
Source: Pinterest

As the decade progressed, Gordon tried to spice up his routine by forming his own band, but they only managed to record just one album before breaking up. In 1969, he grew closer to the soul duo Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett and later went on tour with them.

He Was Gentle and Charming

Shortly before he went on tour with Delaney and Bonnie, James and Jill divorced. They were married for five years and gave birth to one daughter. The tour with the white soul duo proved to be a success and introduced him to two unemployed guitarists named Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

A studio portrait of Jim Gordon.
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Bonnie Bramlett described Gordon: “He was gentle, sincere, considerate, brutally handsome, charming as a snake, and boy could he play! He was right on the money. I could do whatever I wanted. I was really enjoying myself. We all were. And it showed.”

Then Came the Drugs…

After touring with Delaney and Bonnie, Gordon left the duo to join Leon Russell and Joe Cocker on their Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. It was full of booze and drugs, sex with groupies, and throwing up in public. In short – chaos.

A photo of Jim Gordon performing on stage.
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For a young guy who had never done many drugs before, Gordon was somewhat of a superman, taking pill after pill without any complaints or bad trips. The whole tour was basically Gordon playing drums like a boss while swallowing, smoking and snorting whatever he could get his hands on.

He Thought He Was Being Watched

Gordon’s escalating drug use likely had something to do with the fact that he wanted to silence the voices in his head. When he was wasted, there was no way he could listen to them. Still, he had a nagging feeling something was wrong. “I had a feeling I was being watched,” he said, “but it was all in the background.”

A dated image of Eric Clapton, Carl Radle, and Jim Gordon in a dressing room.
Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

At the time, the voices in Gordon’s head were mere murmurs, and he was able to ignore them. Career-wise, everything was going relatively well. And in his personal life, he dodged the groupie scene and committed himself to one woman – fellow musician Rita Coolidge.

The First Time He Hit a Woman

Gordon and Coolidge spent nearly all of their free time together. He would buy her fox-fur coats and jewelry. They would write music and make jokes about who was worse at playing the piano. But it all ended one afternoon at a hotel in New York where the group was hanging out.

An image of Rita Coolidge performing on stage.
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Coolidge recalled: “He asked me to step out into the hall… I thought he wanted to talk. Instead, he hit me.” The punch sent Coolidge sprawling and gave her a black eye which throbbed for the rest of the tour.

When He Came to His Senses…

At the time, the blow was inexplicable. But looking back, it’s clear that these were the first signs of paranoid insanity. After he cooled down, Gordon apologized and sent her poetry books and various love songs. But Coolidge wasn’t willing to take him back.

A dated portrait of Coolidge.
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When the madmen’s tour ended, Gordon got a phone call from George Harrison, who wanted him to join him, Eric Clapton, and Phil Spector in making the album All Things Must Pass. After working together, Clapton asked Gordon if he wanted to form a band together. Gordon agreed.

The Tour With Clapton Was a Disaster

Together with Carl Radle, Duane Allman, Bobby Withlock and Clapton, Gordon formed Derek and the Dominos. The group created incredible pieces, yet there was one little vice that was threatening to ruin them all – Clapton’s love of heroine.

A backstage picture of Derek and the Dominos in the dressing room.
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Ultimately, the band broke up after their one and only tour in 1972. They claimed it had to do with money and artistic differences, but clearly, the drugs flying around the tour bus had a lot to do with it too. “The producers wouldn’t pay me for Layla,” Gordon revealed, “because they said I would be dead in six months anyway.”

Work Kept On Rolling In

The breakup from Clapton and his band didn’t keep Gordon away from doing drugs. If anything, it just enhanced his detrimental habit. At the same time, John Lennon asked him to join him on his solo album, Imagine. Afterward, he returned to London to do recording sessions for Richard Perry, the producer who worked on Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.”

An image of Derek and the Dominos during a show.
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At a certain point, though, Gordon felt like he was ready to go back home to California. He was sick of the same routine of drugs and work. He ended up returning home afraid of being tagged as yet another washed-out druggie superstar who was unable to deal with the pressures of stardom. However, that wasn’t the case.

One of the Best Periods of His Life

When he returned to California, Gordon was in such demand that he could decide when he wanted to work and with whom. The music business was flourishing, and there was a feeling that there was work needed everywhere. Jim was so famous at the time that every drummer in LA had to get used to the fact that Jim would likely replace them at one point.

A photo of Rick Grech, Anthony 'Reebop' Kwaku Baah, Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, Dave Mason, and Jim Gordon of the band Traffic in Mike's Café. 
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Jim was working constantly, spending hours in the studio with the likes of Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Johnny Rivers, and many others. Gordon remembers this period in his life as one of his best. Returning home from England seemed to be the right idea.

He Slid From Drugs to Booze

Jim became sober, bought a new house in Sherman Oaks, and began seeing his daughter again. He also married singer-songwriter Renée Armand. Still, Gordon wasn’t 100% clean. “I guess I was an alcoholic,” Gordon recalled of those days.

An image of a whisky bottle.
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He slid from drugs to booze. “Before, I was drinking every night, but I wasn’t getting up in the morning for a drink; I would put a needle in my arm. When I stopped taking the heroin, I began to drink all day,” he explained. Shortly after, he went back to abusing drugs.

Miraculously, He Made It to the Studio

Despite taking speedballs several times a week (cocaine laced with heroin), Gordon always managed to show up to the studio whenever a record producer called him. He was the one guy who never stepped aside to do a line during work. His reputation was solid.

A photo of Jim Gordon performing onstage.
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Nevertheless, there was something brewing in Gordon’s mind. He felt like there was some force trying to gain control over him, and he was slowly losing the battle. He went from friendly and polite to quiet and withdrawn. During breaks at work, he would stand alone in the corner, often talking to himself in whispers.

He Grew More Withdrawn

“He was always a quiet guy,” bass player Max Bennett noted, “but the quiet became very loud, and everybody left him alone.” Gradually, Gordon began retreating. He grew more withdrawn as the days went by, which worried those around him.

A human silhouette is looking through a window.
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At times, he would isolate himself in some random hotel, disappearing for days. His childhood insecurities morphed into full-blown paranoia. He felt like he wasn’t wanted and that people were out to get him.

He Developed Irrational Fears

Jim Gordon began to develop an irrational fear of the latest wave of drummers who were swarming LA. In 1973, Gordon came up to Chris Hillman and politely asked for an audition, despite the job being undoubtedly his. Chris knew he wanted Jim in the band, but Jim was no longer sure of anything.

An image of a silhouette behind a glass door.
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This was far from the Jim Gordon people knew. And despite the fact that many musicians acted crazy or unlike themselves due to alcohol and drugs, Jim’s behavior didn’t resemble just any person on drugs. It was something else.

The Early Stages of Schizophrenia

“The paranoia,” an expert named Dr. Vicary told Rolling Stone, “was just one symptom of his illness. It is often one of the earliest signs of schizophrenia. ‘I’m okay,’ he may say. ‘They’re all just out to get me.’ The ‘they’ are often real people in the beginning. When more advanced symptoms turn up, delusions and hallucinations, they can become imaginary voices and people.”

A photo of the word “help” in a dark background.
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The first person to catch a glimpse of the true terror in his eyes was his wife, Renée. Their relationship had always been somewhat unpredictable and wild, but Renée wasn’t prepared for this.

“I Know What You’re Doing”

One afternoon, Renée came home from shopping. She hadn’t even placed the groceries in place when Jim confronted her. He shot her a menacing stare, narrowed his eyes, and said “I know what you’re doing.” It was a look she wouldn’t forget for many years.

A photo of Jim Gordon.
Source: Pinterest

Renée responded that she had no idea what Jim was talking about. He then pointed to three items on the floor. “The magic triangle,” he explained. He accused his wife of being responsible for dark magic, responsible for evil spirits around the house. After she denied it, he punched and broke her ribs.

She Cut All Ties With Him

Looking back at the event, Renée stated that despite loving him to death, she couldn’t stay with him after that brutal attack. Their marriage was over after six short months. But Gordon wasn’t left on his own. The voices were there and stronger than ever.

An image of a drum kit.
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Gordon wasn’t in an intoxicated state when he heard them. They appeared when he was cold-sober and more alert than ever. The voices were everywhere. They were vivid and loud and accompanied him wherever he went.

The Voices Were Friendly at First

Gordon’s voices became part of his daily life. Each one took on a different identity. Some even had faces that he couldn’t recognize. The leader of the voices was a white-bearded man, and the group of voices he was in charge of included a blonde woman and another dark-haired one.

An image of Gordon playing the drums.
Source: YouTube

Some of the voices, though, he knew quite well. They were the voices of his brother, his aunt, and even his mom. According to Jim, the voices were friendly at first. “They were giving me little pointers. How to take care of myself and the house. How to shop. I was glad for the help. I was getting ready for the rest of my life. I thought it was pretty strange, but there was nothing I could do about it. I heard them all the time,” he told Rolling Stone.

The King of the Universe

Gradually, the voices began to tell Jim that he was responsible for the country’s people. “[They said] I was the king of the universe,” Jim stated. “I had to make sacrifices, and I had to do what they said. That’s when my mother started making me eat half my food.”

A portrait of Jim Gordon.
Source: Pinterest

But however little food he ate, he compensated in alcohol. Jim could chug down cups of vodka every day and still work. His behavior made it hard to understand the battle that was raging in his mind.

He Was a Kind and Gentle Soul

Apart from the voices, Jim always had women around him. If one left, another one quickly took her place, even though most of them knew the risk they were taking by being around him. One of the women he dated at the time was named Stacey Bailey.

A picture of Jim Gordon at the time of Derek and the Dominos.
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She moved in with him, and for a while, it seemed like all was well. Being with Stacey made Jim feel at peace with himself. Stacey recalled how sensitive and quiet he was, how he brought her breakfast in bed and took care of her dog whenever she visited her parents.

He Felt Like His Mom Was Trying to Control His Life

One day, Jim confessed to Stacey about the voices. He told her about his insecurities and complained about his mother. Even though he didn’t really connect the two, the complaints about his mom and the ones about the voices were practically the same.

An image of a hand creating tension behind a white fabric.
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He told Stacey that whatever he did, and no matter how hard he tried, he felt as though he couldn’t please his mom, that he was never enough for her. He felt like his mom wanted to take over his life, like all the women he knew did.

He Choked Stacey, Then Laughed

One night, Stacey woke up with Gordon’s hands on her throat. She was unable to breathe. “God, did I talk!” she recalled, “I don’t know what I said. I said whatever came into my mind, and I tried to stay calm. I knew I had to convince him that he had to stop.”

A photo of Jim Gordon.
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Stacey told Rolling Stone that she was this close to passing out when Jim finally loosened his grip. But then he choked her again, released and then choked, released and then choked. He eventually fell back on the bed, laughing to himself hysterically. “It was a joke!” he told her.

He Was a Danger to Society

The first thing Stacey did was run to the neighbors. Jim begged her to come back, not sure why she reacted so harshly. “I just wanted to see if you really cared about me,” he cried. According to Dr. Vicary, the violent feelings Jim felt towards women “could be traced to the fact that his mother was the strong parent, perhaps the one responsible for discipline.”

An image of a male silhouette from a distance.
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For Jim, every day became a massive struggle. The voices were tormenting him no matter what he did. It became impossible for him to control his anger. The only way he could defend himself was by being polite and keeping his distance from those around him.

The Only Thing That Helped

But the emotional wall Jim had built didn’t hold. He tried everything, from quitting drugs to withdrawing from society. But it was just like placing a bandage on an oozing wound, a temporary solution.

An image of a glass of wine spilled on a table.
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The only thing that helped him fight off the voices was alcohol. And by now, he was drinking more than ever. His madness was escalating, and soon everyone in Los Angeles would know of his deteriorating mental state.

“You’re Messing With My Time”

The first-time people in Los Angeles’ music scene heard about Jim’s mad mental state was after a recording session of Johnny Rivers’ Outside Help in 1977, during which Jim suddenly stopped playing. Just like that, the studio grew still.

A photo of a drum.
Source: Pixabay

Jim shot guitarist Dean Parks a menacing look. “You’re messing with my time,” Gordon told him while rising to his feet. Dean had no clue what Gordon was talking about. The two had done plenty of work together, and nothing as weird as this had ever happened before.

“You’re Moving My Hands”

“You’re moving my hands,” Jim told Dean, “And I want you to stop it.” Dean assured his friend that it was impossible for him to control his hands from across the room. After some convincing, Jim began playing again, but some sessions later, he yelled at someone else for doing the same thing.

An image of Dean Parks at a recording studio.
Source: Pinterest

Eventually, word of Jim’s erratic behavior spread, and record producers would no longer hire him. With just a few recording sessions offered, Jim ended up settling for lower-paying gigs like TV films and different commercials.

The Industry’s Quiet Embarrassment

By that point, Jim had become the music scene’s embarrassment. To get away from it all, he went on tour in Canada with Burton Cummings. However, leaving LA did him little good. There was absolutely no escape from the voices.

An image of Jim Gordon at a recording studio.
Photo by Estate Of Keith Morris/Redferns/Getty Images

“I couldn’t cope with being outside anymore,” Jim explained. “The voices were chasing me around. Making me drive to different places. Starving me. I was only allowed one bite of food a meal. If I disobeyed, they would fill me with rage, like the Hulk.”

His Mother’s Voice Took Over

One voice topped the rest – his mother’s. She consumed Jim’s every waking hour. He would yell at her to leave him alone, and when that didn’t work, he would phone his mother and scream at her to do the same thing. His mother, needless to say, had no idea what her son was talking about.

An image of a mouth shouting.
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“She said I needed help,” Jim told Rolling Stone, “so I went to Van Nuys Psychiatric Hospital.” This marked the first of 14 check-ins into a mental hospital over the next several years. At the hospital, he told the doctors he couldn’t sleep, and that his mother was taunting him.

He Quickly Checked Out

At the same time, though, whenever Jim’s mother would visit him at the hospital, he would tell doctors how glad he was and that she was “the only friend” he really had. Understanding the ambivalent nature of his feelings toward her, and trusting that he would do her no harm, Jim’s doctors let him out on the weekends so he could visit her.

An interior shot of a hospital at night.
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After two short months, Jim checked himself out of the hospital, against the medical expert’s advice. Jim said he was stable enough to continue seeing him as an outpatient. But on September 3rd, when Jim failed to show up for an appointment, his doctor called his mom.

He Tried to Kill Himself

Jim’s mom found her son at home, unconscious. She rushed him to the hospital where they informed her that he had overdosed on the sedatives his psychiatrist had prescribed him. At the next meeting with his doctor, Jim apologized for attempting suicide.

A picture of an ambulance siren.
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His voices, he explained, couldn’t care less if he killed himself. But as severe as his situation was at the time, Jim could no longer keep up with the appointments. His mind was too scattered and jumpy. To make a living, he went back to doing commercials and TV movies.

People Rooted for Him

In the spring of 1978, Jim was offered a chance to go on tour with Jackson Browne. This would be his comeback, he believed. “It was pretty well known that he had had a breakdown, but I wanted him on the tour. You just wanted to root for him,” Jackson Browne later shared.

A photo of Jackson Browne during a concert.
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But when Jim returned from the tour, little had changed. If anything, life had gotten way worse. The music business was going downhill, rock artists were struggling to get their records produced, and rarely any drumming gigs were available.

He Spiraled Out of Control

With no job in sight, Jim would go on dizzying drinking binges for weeks on end in an effort to keep the voices at bay. But to no avail. Jim was spiraling out of control, growing more and more helpless in the face of the malicious voices.

A picture of an alcoholic drink.
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Jim’s voices wouldn’t even let him take on the few jobs he was offered. When Bob Dylan rang to offer him a place on his upcoming tour, the voices, in particular his mother’s, forced him to turn it down. Later, when he was offered another gig in Las Vegas with Paul Anka, he agreed, determined not to let his mother change his mind.

His Mother’s Voice Ruined Him

In Vegas, however, Gordon received a crushing blow. “I flew to Vegas,” he recalled, “played a couple of notes. My mother said to leave, and I had to obey.” That November, Jim returned in the worst state ever and checked himself into Valley Presbyterian Hospital.

An image of a spiral.
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He was so distraught that he threatened to beat up one of the nurses. “She wouldn’t leave me alone,” Jim recalled, “and my mother was working on me. The nurse told me nothing was wrong with me. I had a pain in my back. It was a psychological pain. I broke a potted plant. I ran down the stairs yelling, ‘Let me go. Let me go.’”

He Could No Longer Function in the “Normal” World

Against his doctor’s advice, Jim checked out again. But his musical career was far gone. There was nothing waiting for him anymore. By 1980, he could no longer be called a professional musician. “He could no longer function in the normal world,” guitarist Larry Rolando, one of his few friends, explained.

A picture of a guitar.
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Jim stopped playing music. He barely touched the drums. He would go for weeks without bathing or shaving or changing his clothes. He spent most of his time watching old movies and writing songs he would never finish.

He Believed His Mom Killed Karen Carpenter

Ultimately, the line between his mother’s voice and the voice taunting his mind vanished. They became one and the same. Jim’s obsession with his mom’s voice consumed his every thought, and he came to the conclusion that she was an evil woman.

A dated portrait of Karen Carpenter.
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Jim believed (and he likely still does) that his mom is responsible for killing Karen Carpenter and Paul Lynde. He also believed that his mom wanted him dead because he longer served a purpose in the world. He had done his job and it was now time to leave.

He Was Dying of Hate

“She knew what she was doing,” Jim told Rolling Stone. “She was ruining my life. That’s what she wanted to do.” By that point, Jim had completely retreated from society. He started preparing for the world’s end by renting a garage and packing it with freeze-dried food.

An image of a garage door.
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Here and there, he would try to break out of his slump and play at a few LA clubs. But nothing really caught on. By the end of 1982, the suffering had become unbearable. Finally, in the fall of that same year, he checked in once again and told the doctors that he was “dying of hate.”

It Was Either Him or His Mom

Jim felt like he didn’t have that many options left. To put an end to his misery, he could either kill himself or kill his mother. He wrestled with both ideas. Finally, in 1983, Jim’s mom wrote him a letter. It had been two years since she had seen him.

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In the letter, she wrote to her son that whatever it was that was going on his mind, it had little to do with her. She wasn’t the cause. “I think of you so often and wonder how things are going for you,” his mom wrote, finishing off the letter by writing “I love you, Jim, more than you know.”

She Knew He Was After Her

Jim didn’t believe his mom. “She wanted me to throw my drums away,” he said, “do all these impossible things. We’d been over the same ground so many times that I knew what was expected of me. She said, ‘You’re going to kill me,’ or something like that.”

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On the evening of June 1st, Jim called his mom. “You’re bugging me again,” he told her, “I’m going to kill you.” As always, Jim’s mom denied her son’s bizarre accusations. She phoned the local medical center of North Hollywood and asked whether her son had checked in lately. According to one nurse, he had been drinking and taking an anti-psychotic drug called Thorazine.

She Filed a Restraining Order Against Him

Jim was feeling terribly agitated. So, he called his mom again that night. With little to do, she hung up and went to sleep, hoping that the morning sun would soothe her son’s rage. The following day, she woke up feeling worried and phoned the city’s attorney’s office to file a restraining order.

An image of a police vehicle parked outside a house.
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Faced with a tiring bureaucracy, Jim’s mom hung up the phone. She tried calming herself down, convincing herself that even though her son was in a dire state, he had never once raised a hand on her. But that Friday night, he appeared on her doorstep.

“I Had No Interest in Killing Her”

There was no one around that night to witness the murder. But the neighbors later mentioned hearing screaming. Some even called the police. The cops arrived the following morning to find Jim, sobbing, face down on his mom’s living room floor.

An image of police tape securing a crime scene.
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“I had no interest in killing her,” Jim promised. “I wanted to stay away from her. I had no choice. It was so matter of fact. I felt like I was a zombie. She wanted me to kill her, and good riddance to her.” Today, his mother’s voice no longer haunts him.

He Was Predisposed to Schizophrenia

Even though Jim’s mother no longer creeps up, Gordon is still haunted by the others. According to medical experts, the drummer was predisposed to developing the illness. Without a predisposition, schizophrenia would have never taken over his brain.

An empty room at an institution for the mentally ill.
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The doctors aren’t very optimistic about Jim’s recovery, particularly because he’s currently behind bars and not in a mental hospital. He continues to suffer from horrendous delusions and paranoia. Nowadays, according to an interview done with Jim, his brother’s voice is the most prominent one in his mind. Since killing his mother, Jim has tried to commit suicide several times. But as of today, he is behind the bars of Los Angeles County Jail, and all he wants to do is live day by day, in peace.