Cream drummer Ginger Baker has died at age 80
Famed drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. Baker was best known as a member of the original rock supergroup Cream, which created hits like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room.” Over the course of his celebrated decades-long career, he also found renown as a jazz, blues, and Afrobeat drummer.
Baker was born in war-torn South London in 1939, and his father was killed in World War II. He began drumming at age 15, and soon earned a reputation for a temper that matched his talent—at 18, Baker's tour with jazz guitarist Diz Disley was cut short when he set fire to a hotel.
In the early 1960s, Baker played in the band Blues Incorporated, replacing future Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts and playing alongside bassist Jack Bruce. Baker, Bruce, and keyboardist Graham Bond later formed the Graham Bond Organization. Cream songwriter Peter Brown told Rolling Stone in 2009 that, "What the Beatles were to the public, the Graham Bond Organization was to musicians."
In 1966, Baker, Bruce, and Yardbirds' guitarist Eric Clapton formed Cream, and the band would go on to sell 15 million albums over the two years of its original run, becoming one of the most influential rock bands of all time. After Cream’s dissolution amid conflict between Baker and Bruce, Baker joined Clapton and Steve Winwood in the supergroup Blind Faith, which disbanded after less than a year.
Later, struggling with drug addiction and despondent over the death of his friend Jimi Hendrix, Baker moved to Nigeria, where he befriended and performed with Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti. Over the years, he would go on to collaborate with musicians including the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten and jazz musicians Max Roach and Art Blakey. He spent much of his later years living in South Africa, and was the subject of a 2012 documentary, Beware of Mr. Baker.
Ginger Baker, great drummer, wild and lovely guy. We worked together on the 'Band on the Run' album in his ARC Studio, Lagos, Nigeria. Sad to hear that he died but the memories never will. X Paul pic.twitter.com/Rne4tn6A2i— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) October 6, 2019
As a member of Cream, Baker was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, and the band was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2006.
In a 2013 Rolling Stone interview, Baker revealed that despite his prodigious talent across multiple genres, he never actually practiced the drums since he began playing the instrument as a teen. “I’d never sat behind a kit before, but I sat down—and I could play!” he recalled in 2009 of his first time on drums. "One of the musicians turned round and said, ‘Bloody hell, we’ve got a drummer’, and I thought, ‘Bloody hell, I’m a drummer!’"