Artist News Obituaries

Ginger Baker dies

By | Published on Monday 7 October 2019

Ginger Baker

Former Cream drummer Ginger Baker has died, aged 80. He had been diagnosed with several serious health problems in recent years, and in recent weeks his family had indicated that he was critically ill.

Born Peter Baker in Lewisham, South London in 1939, Baker was nicknamed Ginger for his hair colour. He began playing drums as a teenager, after hopes of becoming a professional cyclist were dashed by a traffic accident. Claiming to have been a natural from the first time he sat down behind a drumkit, he went on to become one of rock’s most influential drummers.

Initially finding work in jazz bands, he eventually moved over to London’s burgeoning blues-rock scene, to which his powerful style was more suited. After a stint in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, he joined the Graham Bond Organisation, which teamed him up with bassist Jack Bruce for the first time.

Despite an extreme clash of personalities, Baker and Bruce had an undeniable musical chemistry and subsequently formed Cream with Eric Clapton. Baker’s fiery temperament also led to arguments with Clapton, at times becoming violent, both on and off stage. The band split after two years and four albums, but left a huge influence on rock musicians who followed them.

Baker left the UK in the early 70s to open a recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria. While living there he collaborated with Fela Kuti, and Wings recorded their ‘Band On The Run’ album at the studio. Financial issues eventually meant he lost the studio business, though.

In 2012, documentary ‘Beware Of Mr Baker’ was released to great acclaim. It showed Baker as a difficult man (opening with him attacking director Jay Bulger with a metal cane) who commanded huge respect from his contemporaries as a musician, but less so as a person.

Baker continued to tour until 2016, when health problems forced him to stop. He had also developed a love of polo, using much of the money from an aborted Cream reunion in 2005 (his clashes with Bruce again spilling onto the stage) to build his collection of ponies. His numerous injuries sustained while playing the sport also added to his health issues.

Following the announcement of his death yesterday, numerous other artists, including Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney, paid tribute. In a statement, his family said that he had “passed away peacefully”.