Drums & Demons: The Tragic Journey of Jim Gordon

Diversion. Feb. 2024. 288p. ISBN 9781635768992. $28.99. BIOG
Prolific music critic Selvin (Arhoolie Records Down Home Music) has produced a long overdue biography of a key figure responsible for the popular music sound of the ’60s and ’70s. Jim Gordon (1945–2023) was legendary for his drumming ability and what he brought to the recording studio. For a 10-year period, the results of his genius could be heard nearly every hour on pop radio, and the songs remain a staple of classic rock today. From Mason Williams’s “Classical Gas” to the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” from the Everly Brothers to Steely Dan and the Hues Corporation’s “Rock the Boat,” Gordon gave recordings that extra drive that made them hits. He even snagged a cowriting credit on Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” Gordon was also beset by frightening voices. His undiagnosed schizophrenia culminated in a horrific outcome in 1983, when he brutally murdered his mother and was imprisoned until his death in 2023. It’s a tribute to Selvin that he handles the contrasts and complexities of Gordon’s life with sympathy here, while not shying away from the toll Gordon took on those around him.
VERDICT This narrative of Gordon’s life, hugely influential drumming, and legacy is consistently compelling from start to finish.
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