Ginger Baker, wild and brilliant Cream drummer, dies aged 80
Drummer who straddled jazz, blues and rock ‘passed away peacefully’
Ginger Baker, one of the most brilliant, versatile and turbulent drummers in the history of British music, has died aged 80.
His family had previously made it public that he was critically ill and asked fans to “please keep him in your prayers”. His Facebook page said he “passed away peacefully” on Sunday morning.
Paul McCartney was among those paying tribute, writing on Twitter: “Great drummer, wild and lovely guy … Sad to hear that he died but the memories never will.”
Baker was born in 1939 in Lewisham, south London, and grew up amid the blitz; his father was killed in action in 1943. He began drumming in his mid-teens, remembering in 2009: “I’d never sat behind a kit before, but I sat down – and I could play! One of the musicians turned round and said, ‘Bloody hell, we’ve got a drummer’, and I thought, ‘Bloody hell, I’m a drummer!’”
Early work came with the jazz guitarist Diz Disley – which ended when an 18-year-old Baker set fire to a hotel while on tour in Europe – and with bandleader Terry Lightfoot. He played blues in Blues Incorporated – including guest appearances with an early incarnation of the Rolling Stones – and US R&B with the Graham Bond Organisation, both alongside Jack Bruce on bass guitar.
Despite considerable friction between Baker and Bruce, the pair in 1966 formed Cream with Eric Clapton, who had previously played with the Yardbirds and John Mayall. Cream helped define the psychedelic rock sound of the decade, with Baker bringing both a jazz sensibility – Toad, from debut album Fresh Cream, features one of the first ever drum solos in rock – and a hard-hitting style, using two bass drums, that pointed towards heavy metal.
Cream sold more than 15m records worldwide and had hits including Sunshine of Your Love, Strange Brew and White Room; three of their four albums reached both the US and UK top five.
The band split in 1968, releasing a final album in 1969. A reunion in 2005 ended in animosity, with Baker and Bruce shouting at each other on stage in New York. In 1969, Baker and Clapton formed the short-lived band Blind Faith with Steve Winwood and Ric Grech, and the latter pair joined Baker in his next project, jazz-rock band Ginger Baker’s Air Force.
Baker moved to Nigeria in 1971 and set up the Batakota recording studio in Lagos, which hosted local musicians as well as established stars (McCartney’s band Wings recorded part of Band on the Run there). He performed with Nigerian star Fela Kuti – “he understands the African beat more than any other westerner,” said Kuti’s drummer Tony Allen – and went on to collaborate or perform with a hugely varied array of musicians: Public Image Ltd, Hawkwind, hard rock band Baker Gurvitz Army, and jazz performers Max Roach, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. In 1994, he formed a jazz trio with Charlie Haden and Bill Frisell.
He had spells living in Italy, California, Colorado and South Africa, and developed a passion for polo. In 2008, when living in South Africa, he was defrauded of more than £30,000 by a bank clerk he had hired as a personal assistant. He also suffered from various health issues, including respiratory illness and osteoarthritis, and underwent open heart surgery in 2016. “God is punishing me for my past wickedness by keeping me alive and in as much pain as he can,” he said in 2009.
That wickedness perhaps included his notorious temper – “I used to be mean – I’d deliberately mess up recording sessions with my temper and go mad at the slightest thing,” he said in 1970. He was married four times – “If a plane went down and there was one survivor, it would be Ginger. The devil takes care of his own,” first wife Elizabeth Ann Baker said in 2009 – and used heroin on and off since the mid-60s: he told the Guardian in 2013 that he relapsed “something like 29 times”.
A documentary, Beware of Mr Baker, was made about his life in 2012. He is survived by his three children, Kofi, Leda and Ginette.(by Ben Beaumont-Thomas, The Guardian)
To hnor this great drummr, here´s his first album wih his “Air Force” group:
Ginger Baker’s Air Force is the eponymous debut album by Ginger Baker’s Air Force, released in 1970. This album is a recording of a sold-out live show at the Royal Albert Hall, on 15 January 1970, with the original 10-piece line up. The gatefold LP cover was designed left-handed; i.e. the front cover artwork was on what traditionally would be considered the back and vice versa. (by wikipedia)
For a change, the late 1960s yielded up a supergroup that lived up to its hype and then some. Ginger Baker’s Air Force was recorded live at Royal Albert Hall in January of 1970 — in fact, this may be the best-sounding live album ever to come out of that notoriously difficult venue — at a show that must have been a wonder to watch, as the ten-piece band blazed away in sheets of sound, projected delicate flute parts behind multi-layered African percussion, or built their songs up Bolero-like, out of rhythms from a single instrument into huge jazz-cum-R&B crescendos. Considering that this was only their second gig, the group sounds astonishingly tight, which greatly reduces the level of self-indulgence that one would expect to find on an album where five of the eight tracks run in excess of ten minutes. There aren’t too many wasted notes or phrases in the 78 minutes of music included here, and Steve Winwood’s organ, Baker, Phil Seamen, and Remi Kabaka’s drums, and the sax playing by Chris Wood, Graham Bond (on alto), and Harold McNair, all stand out, especially the sax trio’s interwoven playing on “Don’t Care.”
Additionally, Denny Laine plays louder, flashier, more virtuoso-level guitar than he ever got to turn in with the Moody Blues, bending notes in exquisite fashion in the opening of Air Force’s rendition of the Cream standard “Toad,” crunching away on rhythm elsewhere, and indulging in some more introspective blues for “Man of Constant Sorrow.” The original CD reissue, which sounded pretty good, was deleted in the early ’90s, but this album has been remastered again and repackaged as part of the Ginger Baker retrospective Do What You Like on Polygram’s Chronicles series. It’s a must-own for jazz-rock, Afro-fusion, blues-rock, or percussion fans. (by Bruce Eder)
Ginger Baker (drums, percussion, vocals)
Graham Bond (organ, saxophone, vocals)
Ric Grech (bass, violin on 06.)
Jeanette Jacobs (vocals)
Remi Kabaka (drums, percussion)
Denny Laine – guitars, vocals on 06.)
Harold McNair (saxophones, flute)
Phil Seamen (drums, percussion)
Steve Winwood (organ, bass on 06., vocals on 03. + 07.)
Chris Wood (saxophone, flute)
01. Da Da Man (McNair) 7.14
02. Early in the Morning (Traditional) 11.17
03. Don’t Care (Baker/Winwood) 12.29
04. Toad (Baker) 13.00
05. Aiko Biaye (Kabaka/Osei) 13.01
06. Man Of Constant Sorrow (Traditional) 3.55
07. Do What You Like (Baker) 11.39
08. Doin’ It (Baker/Grech) 5.29
Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker (19 August 1939 – 6 October 2019)
REST IN PEACE !