R.I.P., Ginger Baker
The world became a little less scary and a lot less wonderful yesterday when it was announced that we no longer need to beware of Mr. Baker: Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker, drummer for Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation, Cream, Blind Faith, and Ginger Baker’s Air Force, not to mention a collaborator with any number of other bands and musicians, has died.
Baker, who was 80 at the time of his passing, died in a hospital in Canterbury, England, following several years of ill health. At the end of September, his family announced that his condition had taken a turn toward “critically ill” and asked fans to keep him in their prayers, and while he seemingly had an upswing a few days later, it was not destined to last.
Born on August 19, 1939 in Lewisham, South London, Baker started to play drums when he was in his mid-teens, but the tide began to turn toward turning his love of music into a career in the early 1960s, when he took lessons from jazz drummer Phil Seamen. Having honed his skills, Baker began to make a name for himself by playing with such notables as Alexis Korner and Graham Bond, but it was when he formed Cream in 1966 with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce that he was properly on the road to becoming a rock and roll legend.
While Cream only remained together for just over two years, they managed to release four albums in that time and became one of the biggest rock bands of the ‘60s. From there, Baker bounced around a bit, playing briefly in Blind Faith, then forming Ginger Baker’s Air Force. In 1971, he famously decided to set up a recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria, and then infamously thought it would be a good idea to travel across the Sahara Desert to get there. Good or bad, the latter idea was documented in Tony Palmer’s film Ginger Baker in Africa, and the former idea was at least a smart enough idea for Paul McCartney and Wings to record BAND ON THE RUN there.
Baker’s career throughout the remainder of his career was a blend of his own projects coupled with contributions to other artists’ albums. In the mid-1970s, he recorded three albums with Paul and Adrian Gurvitz under the guise of the Baker Gurvitz Army, in the early ‘80s he was very briefly a member of Hawkwind and played on Public Image Ltd.’s ALBUM, and in the ‘90s he was a member of Masters of Reality, after which he founded the Ginger Baker Trio.
Perhaps most remarkable is the fact that Baker, Bruce, and Clapton reunited as Cream in 2005 to perform a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. While the critical reaction to the band’s performances were mixed, the fact that they got back together at all remains amazing.
To anyone who wants to get an idea of what kind of person Ginger Baker was, you need look no farther than the documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, which – as you may have noticed – we referenced in the opening paragraph. Baker was not a man to be trifled with, but he was talented as all get out, and while he’ll be missed, he made his mark and then some.