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Dark Stories: Tragic Life of Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’ Co-Writer | Articles @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com

Dark Stories: Tragic Life of Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’ Co-Writer | Articles @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com

Dark Stories: Tragic Life of Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’ Co-Writer | Articles @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com
May 08
10:32 2018

In 1970 Derek and the Dominos released their first and only studio album, titled “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.” “Layla,” the thirteenth track on this record, became one of the best known musical pieces of the second half of the 20th century. The song not only featured Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals but also the legendary Duane Allman on slide guitar. Throughout his solo career, Clapton continued to perform this song live and it has become one of his signature songs and crowd favorites.

However, as some may not know, Clapton is not the only writer of this legendary song. The full version is about 7 minutes in length and features a 4-minute long piano-based piece that was written by the band’s drummer Jim Gordon. As the story goes, Clapton got inspired by Pattie Boyd, a woman he fell in love with. Now, this is kind of weird since at the time Pattie was George Harrison’s wife, but that’s a whole different story. Clapton eventually married her in 1979 and she also inspired two more of his songs – “Wonderful Tonight” and “Bell Bottom Blues.”

Initially, “Layla” was conceived as a ballad and was dedicated to Clapton’s unreciprocated love for Boyd. But eventually, it turned into a rock song with the main riff becoming one of the most influential guitar works of the decade. The song was recorded in Miami’s Criteria Studios with the help from the producer Tom Dowd.

However, this was not the final version. Shortly after the song was recorded, Clapton came back to the studio and heard the band’s drummer Jim Gordon playing one of his own original piano pieces. After some persuading from the Clapton’s side, Gordon gave in and his piano piece was used as the second movement of “Layla.” This part was recorded about a week after the original one and it featured Gordon on piano, and Clapton and Duane Allman on guitars. These two parts were then spliced by Tom Dowd and the final version of “Layla” we all know today was complete.

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Certain controversies arose since Bobby Whitlock – Derek and the Dominos keyboardist – claimed that Gordon stole this particular piece from his girlfriend Rita Coolidge. According to Whitlock, this was actually Rita’s song called “Time,” which eventually got recorded by her sister Priscilla Jones and Booker T. for the album “Chronicles.” However, this was never proven and the credits for “Layla” still go to Jim Gordon.

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But no one would have thought that such a lovely piece of art can have a dark story behind it. Jim Gordon was a brilliant and talented musician who collaborated with some of the best-known artists of the 1970s, including Joe Cocker and Frank Zappa. However, over the years Gordon started showing signs of schizophrenia. In the early 1970s, he snapped and ended up beating up Rita Coolidge, automatically ending their relationship. Eventually, he even started hearing voices. And some of those voices were those of his mother, forcing him to starvation, stopping him from doing his everyday activities and making his life a living hell. According to some sources, while going through these struggles Gordon was even misdiagnosed by doctors and was only treated for his alcohol addiction.

As the years went by, things just started spiraling out of control. Finally, in June 1983, his problems became more serious as the voices started telling him to kill his own mother Osa Marie Gordon. Things escalated and Gordon attacked her with a hammer and then proceeded to stab her with a butcher knife, ultimately killing the 72-year-old woman on the spot. Gordon was arrested and it was only then that he was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Even though that the court acknowledged his diagnosis, the insanity defense would not pass due to the Insanity Defense Reform Act in California. Roughly a year after the murder of his mother, Gordon was sentenced to 16 years to life with eligibility for parole in 1991. However, he was denied several times.

During a 2005 hearing, Gordon claimed that his mother was still alive. In 2014 he refused to attend the hearing and was automatically denied parole until 2018. In late 2017 Gordon was rediagnosed with schizophrenia and was denied parole once again in March 2018 – this being the tenth time. He is currently at psychiatric prison California Medical Facility and will be eligible for parole in 2021. So every time you listened to this legendary song, you’ve enjoyed a piece written by a man who is still serving a sentence in a psychiatric prison.

Source: Dark Stories: Tragic Life of Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’ Co-Writer | Articles @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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