Ginger Baker dies, aged 80
Ginger Baker, the legendary drummer known best for his work with 60s supergroup Cream, has died at the age of 80. An announcement had been made on the drummer's Twitter account on September 25th saying that Baker was "critically ill" in hospital, but updates since had been scarce until, on Sunday, it was confirmed that Baker had died peacefully in his sleep.
Born Peter Edward Baker in London in 1939 – but known almost universally as 'Ginger' thanks to his mane of red hair - Baker began playing drums at the age of 15, taking lessons from jazz drummer Phil Seaman, who was known for playing with all of the era's jazz legends such as Ronnie Scott. That grounding in jazz would inform Baker's unique style for much of his career, which progressed quickly when Baker was recruited as the drummer for R&B outfit The Graham Bond Organisation, where Baker would meet future Cream bandmate Jack Bruce.
Baker co-founded Cream along with bassist Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton in 1966, releasing the first of four albums that year. The closing track on their debut LP Fresh Cream – a five-minute instrumental named 'Toad' – is credited with the being the first rock track to feature an extended drum solo, included on the album as a showcase for Baker's precocious talents.
Friction between Cream members soon escalated to the point of no return and in 1968, just two yers after their formation, Cream announced their split. Baker and Clapton would go on to collaborate in another supergroup, Blind Faith, which added Traffic's Stevie Winwood on keyboards and vocals, as well as former Family bassist Ric Grech. The band recorded just one self-titled album, released in 1969, before going their separate ways.
During the 70s Baker spent a lot of time living in Africa, founding a recording studio in the Nigerian capital Lagos and playing with the likes of Fela Kuti, as well as touring and recording with his new fusion band Ginger Baker's Air Force. When the studio eventually closed at the end of the decade he moved to Italy, later joining the band Hawkwind and recording a couple of albums with them.
In his later years Baker played with several outfits, including reuniting with former Cream band mates for a reunion tour and forming a short-lived group called BBM with Jack Bruce and guitarist Gary Moore. He was also the subject of a documentary Beware Mr. Baker, which cemented the drummer's reputation as a famously prickly interviewee and picked up the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW.
Baker's long and distinguished career saw him named as an influence by the likes of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, The Police's Stuart Copeland and Rush's Neal Pert, among many, many others. Baker is survived by three daughters and a son, Kofi Baker, who plays in tribute band Music of Cream with Jack Bruce's son Malcolm and Eric Clapton's nephew Will Johns.
Since the announcement of his death on Sunday, tributes to the drummer have been pouring onto social media, some of which you can find below...
The Bruce family would like to extend their sincere condolences to Ginger Baker’s family, friends and fans. Surviving a love hate relationship, Ginger was like an older brother to Jack, their chemistry was truly spectacular. RIP Ginger, one of the greatest drummers of all time ❤️ pic.twitter.com/G9Pl4Qecdp— Jack Bruce (@jackbrucemusic) October 6, 2019
Ginger Baker, great drummer, wild and lovely guy. We worked together on the 'Band on the Run' album in his ARC Studio, Lagos, Nigeria. Sad to hear that he died but the memories never will. X Paul pic.twitter.com/Rne4tn6A2i— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) October 6, 2019
Sad news hearing that Ginger Baker has died, I remember playing with him very early on in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. He was a fiery but extremely talented and innovative drummer. pic.twitter.com/tZg3IGwP4Z— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) October 6, 2019
R.I.P. Ginger.... ?ﾟﾏﾻhttps://t.co/TK1UFpSXbM— Julian Lennon (@JulianLennon) October 7, 2019
I’m sorry to hear that Ginger Baker passed. He was a great drummer and we all were fans of Cream back then. “Sunshine Of Your Love” was a great one. Love & Mercy, Brian— Brian Wilson (@BrianWilsonLive) October 6, 2019