Ginger Baker R.I.P.

Reply Sun 6 Oct, 2019 06:40 am
The great rock, blues, jazz, and world music drummer has died at age 80.

A co-founder of Cream, he also played with Blind Faith, Hawkwind and Fela Kuti in a long and varied career.

His style combined the lyricism of jazz with the crude power of rock. One critic said watching him was like witnessing "a human combine harvester".

But he was also a temperamental and argumentative figure, whose behaviour frequently led to on-stage punch-ups.

Nicknamed Ginger for his flaming red hair, the musician was born Peter Edward Baker in Lewisham, south London, shortly before World War Two.

His bricklayer father was killed in action in 1943, and he was brought up in near poverty by his mother, step-father and aunt.

A troubled student, he joined a local gang in his teens and became involved in petty theft. When he tried to quit, gang-members attacked him with a razor.

'Natural time'

His early ambition was to ride in the Tour de France but was forced to quit the sport when, aged 16, his bicycle got "caught up" with a taxi. Instead, he took up drumming.

"I was always banging on the desks at school," he recalled. "So all the kids kept saying, 'Go on, go and play the drums', and I just sat down and I could play.

"It's a gift from God. You've either got it or you haven't. And I've got it: time. Natural time."

The strong legs he'd developed on long bike rides helped him play the double bass drum set-up he favoured and Baker soon talked his way into his first gig.

He played with jazz acts like Terry Lightfoot and Acker Bilk but his style - fragmented and aggressive, but articulate and insistent - was often an odd fit.

Instead, he gravitated towards London's burgeoning blues scene and, in 1962, joined Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated on the recommendation of Charlie Watts - who was leaving to join the Rolling Stones.

Contributors marvelled at his talent, but little else. "He influenced me as a drummer, but not as a person," recalled Free's Simon Kirke, who toured with Cream.

In later years, he was beset by ill health, breaking most of his ribs and subsequently being diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition and the onset of emphysema.

"God is punishing me for my past wickedness by keeping me alive and in as much pain as He can," he told Rolling Stone at the time.

The musician fought osteoarthritis to record his final album, Why?, in 2014. Two years later, he underwent open heart surgery and announced his retirement from touring.

"Just seen doctor… big shock… no more gigs for this old drummer... everything is off," he wrote on his official blog.

"Of all things I never thought it would be my heart."

Baker's death will see him feted as one of rock's most influential musicians, but he scoffed at such accolades, insisting: "Drummers are really nothing more than time-keepers."

He told Rhythm magazine: "It's the drummer's job to make the other guys sound good."


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Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 6 Oct, 2019 07:02 am

He was really one of the best drummers! I (more accidentally) watched him in London, in the early 60's, when he played with Graham Bond Organization

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Reply Sun 6 Oct, 2019 07:09 am
Yeah, I caught this notice too. Cream was my first rock concert ever, when their tour hit Vancouver in summer, 1968. We were very familiar with their music, of course. When they came out on stage, Clapton was holding a bottle of Coca Cola and said, "We always bring a little coke up on stage with us", which got the desired audience response. The main thing I recall of that evening (yes, we were very stoned) was the massing of young people like us, all in hippy mode. I remember thinking, "Jesus, we could take over the world" (which has turned out to be less agreeable than my stoned youthful optimism suggested).

Many years later, a hometown hippy buddy, there with us that evening, toured with Jack Bruce as a vocalist. Two or three years ago, he sent me a link to a Brit TV video from the early 60s where Ginger was playing with some group of guys as early Brit go-go dancers swung their arms and asses and third tier Brit comics ran about the set in monkey costumes. We all have to start somewhere.
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Reply Sun 6 Oct, 2019 03:23 pm
Read an item in the past week or two and got the sinking feeling he'd be exiting soon. Expected a little more time though.

Another great music talent gone.
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Reply Mon 7 Oct, 2019 10:36 am
I saw him a bit later on.

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Finn dAbuzz
Reply Thu 10 Oct, 2019 04:39 pm
Amazing that he made it to 80 --- RIP Ginger
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Reply Fri 11 Oct, 2019 08:00 am
I've just seen Joker. It was sublime, an incredible performance by Phoenix. he deserves an Oscar, but he won't get it.

Anyway, this was part of the soundtrack.

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