The former Cream and Blind Faith member is often regarded as Rock’s first drummer superstar, he was born on this day in 1939
Remembering the influential drummer Ginger Baker
Often regarded as Rock’s first drummer superstar, Ginger Baker was born Peter Edward Baker in London on August 19, 1939. He began playing drums at age 15 and during the 1960’s became one of the London’s music scene most popular drummers after gaining a reputation for his unconventional drumming style. In 1966 he formed the power trio Cream with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton and rose to international stardom. Along with The Who’s Keith Moon, Baker has been credited as one of the early pioneers of double bass drumming in rock and has stated that in 1966 began to adopt two bass drums in his setup after he and Moon watched drummer Sam Woodyard at a Duke Ellington concert. Hugely influenced by Jazz, his drumming often fusion Rock, Jazz and African tribal beats, he paved the way for drum solos in Rock music during his period with Cream, notably when he’d performed lengthy solos during the song “Toad”. The band scored several hits between 1966 and 1968 including “Sunshine Of Your Love”, “I Feel Free”, “Crossroads” “Spoonful”, “White Room”, “I’m So Glad”, “Strange Brew” and “Badge”. Despite the success, Cream disbanded in 1968, partially due to Baker’s and Bruce’s volatile relationship. He formed the short lived acclaimed super group Blind Faith with Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood that released only one album, the self titled “Blind Faith” in 1969. He also formed his own band Ginger Baker’s Air Force, but during most of the 1970’s he begun exploring other musical styles and cultures.
His growing interest in African culture and music took him to Lagos, Nigeria in the early 1970’s, where in November 1971, Baker decided to set up a recording studio that opened in 1973 operating successfully through the seventies as a facility for both local and western musicians such as Paul McCartney and Wings, who recorded there “Band On The Run”. Baker became that way one of the first rock musicians to realize the potential of African music, actually investing on it.
By the 1980’s though, the studios had to shut down and Baker moved to Italy, where he spent several years living on and olive ranch, playing little music and focusing on kicking his heroin habit. By the mid 1980’s he begun to collaborate again with other artists including Hawkwind and John Lyndon’s (Sex Pistols) P.I.L. In 2005 Baker reunited with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce for a series of Cream concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden, that would be the last time the band played together as Jack Bruce passed away in 2014. Recently, in February 2016, Baker announced he had been diagnosed with “serious heart issues” and cancelled all future gigs until further notice. The heart operation was done in July 2016 with Baker reported to be on the road to recovery.
Ginger Baker is often named as an important and big influence for Heavy Metal drummers, however, always a sharp tongue, Baker always expressed his dislike for the genre. That didn’t stopped the fact that among the drummers he has influenced are John Bonham, Peter Criss, Neil Peart, Stewart Copeland, Dave Lombardo, Alex Van Halen and Nick Mason. Ginger Baker was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Cream, of the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2008, and of the Classic Drummer Hall of Fame in 2016. He passed away at age 80 October 6, 2019, leaving a rich legacy in music, not only in Rock but other musical genres he experimented with throughout his career.
Watch Ginger Baker in action, Cream’s Farewell Concert, Live in London 1968
Watch the trailer for the documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker”
Watch Cream playing “Sunshine Of Your Love”, live at The Royal Albert Hall, 2005
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