The Tragic Story Of Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’ Including A Murder And A Battle With Schizophrenia

Eric Clapton released his romantic song ‘Layla’ in 1971 and has been singing it on stage nonstop since then. The production of the song wasn’t done in one sitting, the singer and songwriter wanted the seven-minute song to be perfect as he had a reason to write those lyrics.

Clapton was in love with The Beatles icon George Harrison’s then-wife Pattie Boyd. Harrison and Boyd stayed married for eleven years before getting a divorce. Boyd then married Clapton two years after their divorce. Even though the love was so strong, as depicted in ‘Layla,’ the couple divorced in 1989 after ten years of marriage.

‘Layla’ is a sad song in which Clapton expresses his hopelessness to Boyd and tells her how miserable he is without her. It is followed by a piano ending which was composed by the well-known drummer Jim Gordon. The lyrics of the songs were also co-written by Gordon, even though the story relates to Clapton. In terms of meaning, the song has a romantic and lovely meaning but knowing that Clapton worked with Jim Gordon for it attributes some darkness into the collaboration.

What Is The Dark Story Behind Eric Clapton’s Co-Writer Jim Gordon?

Clapton wasn’t the only well-known artist Gordon had collaborated with. He was respected and well known for his talents in songwriting and drumming. Little did everyone know, he was suffering from schizophrenia, but because he was also an alcohol addict, the mental illness wasn’t diagnosed early enough before a tragedy occurred.

First, he beat up his then-girlfriend Rita Coolidge without any reason. After this event, he started to hear some voices in his head that pushed him to do dangerous things to himself and those around him. Because his illness was hidden by alcohol addiction, he didn’t get any treatment, and this led to him murdering his own mother, Isa Marie Gordon, in 1983.

This time his schizophrenia was seen and diagnosed, yet, it wasn’t enough to pass an ‘Insanity Defense’ in court and so, he was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. He had the eligibility opportunity a couple of times but was denied every single time. Currently, he is in a psychiatric prison in California and expecting eligibility for parole this year.

How Did Nobody Notice Jim Gordon’s Illness Before He Murdered His Mother?

This is a question that might be wondered in everyone’s minds. However, his then-girlfriend Rita Coolidge stated that she noticed the signs but always blamed them for addictions. Even though he hit her for no reason, it never occurred to her that he might be mentally ill. It was a scary time for her.

Here is what she had stated about his condition:

“In hindsight, looking back, I went, ‘Well, he was doing blow, he was just over the edge’ because if you’re doing excessive amounts of drugs and you have, already, a predisposition or active mental illness, it will be exacerbated by the drugs and alcohol. So, I just figured that’s what had happened. It never occurred to me. I mean, he had been violent with me for absolutely no reason, but I didn’t know anything about the voices. I don’t know if he was hearing voices then. I imagine he probably was. Probably a voice told him to take me out in the hall and punch me out. I never went near him again. I didn’t wanna deal with him on any level, because I was afraid of him!”

Rita wasn’t the only person who didn’t see the tragedy coming. The Eagles‘ songwriter J.D Souther also stated that even though he looked unwell, this never affected the way he played and performed on stage. This didn’t make him mess up anything or poorly play his part. Even though he was ‘unpredictable,’ he was never ‘bad.’

Here is what J.D Souther stated about Gordon in the mid-1970s:

“Well, he was becoming unhinged. We didn’t exactly know how much, because you couldn’t tell that much. He was a social nightmare, but he was great on stage every night. He never messed up. He played these brilliant sets, and then one night, he passed out in the urinal waiting to go back on for an encore. He was completely unpredictable, but he never played badly.

There are rumors that he has a band in the institution and he is playing the drums in the prison he is still held at. It has been 37 years since the ‘Layla’ co-writer is locked up and hasn’t been eligible for parole yet. Since he is considered very dangerous to be released back to society, it is curious whether or not he will be eligible for parole this year.

You can listened to Eric Clapton’s live performance of ‘Layla’ on Youtube below.