Monday, October 7, 2019

The Late Great Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker, the legendary drummer from Cream and Blind Faith among other bands, died on October 6 2019 at the age of 80.

Ginger Baker was born Peter Baker in Lewisham, South London on August 19 1939. He was nicknamed "Ginger" because of his red hair. His father died during World War II when Ginger Baker was only four years old. He began drumming while very young and by the time he was a teenager he began playing with local bands. He studied drums under British jazz drummer Phil Seamen.

In 1963 Mr. Baker began playing drums with The Graham Bond Organization, of which future Cream band mate Jack Bruce was also a part. By 1966 he had grown tied of playing with The Graham Bond Organization and decided to form his own supergroup. He asked Eric Clapton, who had played with  The Yardbirds and was then part of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, to join him. Feeling constrained as one of The Bluesbreakers, he agreed right away on the condition that they bring Jack Bruce into the group as their bassist. While Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce had never gotten along, Jack Bruce was brought in as the new band's bassist. The new band was named Cream based on the idea that drummer Ginger Baker, bassist Jack Bruce, and guitarist Eric Clapton were "the cream of the crop."

Cream proved to be highly successful, recording four hit albums and releasing several hit singles. Unfortunately, Cream would also be beset by problems. Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce did not get along during the entire time. Eventually the tension between the two got to be too much and so Cream broke up in 1968.

Following the breakup of Cream, Ginger Baker joined the supergroup Blind Faith, which had been formed by Eric Clapton and former Spencer Davis Group member Steve Windwood. Blind Faith would record only one album before disbanding.

It was upon Blind Faith splitting up that Ginger Baker formed Ginger Baker's Air Force. The initial lineup included of fellow Blind Faith members Steve Winwood and Ric Grech. Ginger Baker's Air Force released two albums in 1970. In 2016 Ginger Baker formed a new version of Ginger Baker's Air Force, that played one show as Ginger Baker's Air Force 3 in 2015. A tour had been planned, but had to be cancelled due to Mr. Baker's health.

Ginger Baker's first solo album was released in 1972. He would follow it with several more solo albums. In the Seventies he would form Baker Gurvitz Army with Adrian Gurvitz. The band's self-titled debut album would be released in 1974. It would be followed by two more studio albums, one in 1975 an done in 1976. They disbanded in 1976. In 1980 Ginger Baker was briefly part of Hawkwind. Material featuring him would appear on three Hawkwind albums in total.

Ginger Baker reunited with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce for Cream concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden in 2005. In 2013 and 2014 Ginger Baker toured with the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion.

There can be little doubt that Ginger Baker was one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, although Mr. Baker considered himself a "jazz drummer" or simply a "drummer." His performances could range from flamboyant to a more restrained jazz style. He was one of the pioneers of the double bass drum setup in rock music. He had been inspired to do so after seeing drummer Sam Woodyard at a Duke Ellington concert. He was also known for his drum solos, such as "Toad" from Cream's debut album Fresh Cream (a drum solo that was a full five minutes). Ginger Baker was a lasting influence on future rock drummers, including John Bonham, Stewart Copeland, Neil Peart, and Alex Van Halen.

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