The recent passing of Ginger Baker brought back memories for me. The former Cream drummer died this past October 6th after years of health issues. Having grown up with two older brothers, I recall there always being Cream albums around and being played in the house. Whether it be Disraeli Gears, Fresh Cream, Wheels of Fire, Live Cream or the Good Bye album, the music fascinated me and raised the bar in Rock and Blues music.
I remember that it was either my brother Mike or someone else saying that each of the musicians in the band (Baker, guitarist Eric Clapton, and bassist Jack Bruce) were the best or among the best at their respective instruments. In fact each would regularly win annual music polls in their categories. The band truly left its mark in music history.
After his stint in Cream, Baker went on to form bands such as Ginger Bakers Air Force, Baker Gurvitz Army and Ginger Baker and Friends. Among Ginger’s other notable music achievements was when he made an extended “Road Trip” in Africa, traveling across the Sahara dessert, which lasted several years. In fact Ginger set up a recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria in 1971 recording with some of Africa’s finest musicians. The 2012 documentary on Ginger’s life, “Beware of Mr. Baker”, went into his time in Africa in some detail.
I didn’t know much about Ginger’s personal life before watching “Beware of Mr. Baker”. The film exposed his volatile personality and drug use. The film begins with footage of Mr. Baker physically attacking the film’s director, Jay Bulger. He was, by all accounts, not a very likable man. In fact, several of his fellow musicians alluded to this in the film. For instance, Simon Kirke, Bad Company drummer said, “He influenced me as a drummer but not as a man”. Drugs were, apparently, an ongoing issue in Baker’s life. He was quoted as once admitting that he quit heroin 29 times.
Through all his imperfections, Ginger Baker’s proficiency and influence as a drummer cannot be overstated.