When drummer Jim Gordon died at age 77 on March 13, 2023, at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California, he had spent half his life behind bars. Before that time, over the course of a mere 15 years, he left an indelible mark on rock music. But at the time of his passing, the superstar drummer was a long-forgotten figure remembered mainly for the most gruesome crime in rock history: In 1983, Gordon killed his mother, stabbing her through the heart after beating her in the head with a hammer.

But Jim Gordon wasn’t a murderer; he was mentally ill. Severely. Gordon suffered from an extreme case of schizophrenia, marked by one of the most dire symptoms in mental illness: command hallucinations. Voices inside his head would order Gordon to do things and punish him if he refused, with vicious, violent headaches that would leave him squirming on the floor in pain and wetting his pants. The chief voice in his head controlling his life and torturing him belonged to his mother, Osa Gordon.

Schizophrenia is ridiculously common. It occurs in one in 100 of the general population. By comparison, multiple sclerosis appears in one in 10,000. Nobody knows what causes the condition—current thinking leans toward genetic disposition—and only half of those diagnosed can be treated at all. They are rarely violent toward others, but they are largely swept under society’s carpet, given superficial treatment, and turned back to deal with their frightening, confusing lives on their own. The streets of our cities are crowded with these unfortunates. Jim was in the position to afford some of the best medical care available, not that it did him much good. He was in and out of mental hospitals and residential drug treatment programs for years.

He knew things about the drums that couldn’t be learned

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