Peter Edward "Ginger" Baker (born 19 August 1939 in Lewisham, South London) is an English drummer, best known for his work with the rock band Cream. He is also known for his numerous associations with world music, mainly the use of African influences. He has also had other collaborations such as with Blind Faith, Gary Moore, Hawkwind, Masters of Reality and Public Image Ltd.
Baker formed and recorded with Ginger Baker's Energy and was involved in collaborations with Bill Laswell, jazz bassist Charlie Haden, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and pioneering afro beat musician Fela Kuti. He was also member of Hawkwind, Atomic Rooster, Masters of Reality, and Public Image Ltd..
Baker gained fame as a member of the Graham Bond Organisation and then as a member of the rock band Cream from 1966 until they disbanded in 1968. He later joined the group Blind Faith. In 1970 Baker formed, toured and recorded with fusion rock group Ginger Baker's Air Force.
He lived in Nigeria from 1970 until 1976. Baker sat in for Kuti during recording sessions in 1971 and these were released by Regal Zonophone as Live! (Fela Kuti album) (1971)' Fela also appeared with Ginger Baker on Stratavarious (1972) alongside Bobby Gass, a pseudonym for Bobby Tench from The Jeff Beck Group. Stratavarious was later re-issued as part of the compilation Do What You Like. Baker formed Baker Gurvitz Army in 1974 and recorded three albums with them before the band broke up in 1976.
In the early 1980s, Baker joined Hawkwind for an album and tour, and in the mid-1980s was part of John Lydon's Public Image Ltd.
In 1992 Baker played with the hard-rock group Masters of Reality on the album Sunrise on the Sufferbus, yielding the top-ten hit "She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On)".
In 1994 he formed The Ginger Baker Trio and joined the bassist known as Googe in Masters of Reality formed by producer, singer and guitarist Chris Goss.
In 1994 Baker joined BBM, a short-lived power trio with the line-up of Baker, Jack Bruce and Irish blues rock guitarist Gary Moore. On 3 May 2005 Baker was reunited with Eric Clapton and Bruce for a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden. The London concerts were recorded and released as Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6 2005 (2005), In a Rolling Stone article written in 2009, Bruce is quoted as saying: "It's a knife-edge thing between me and Ginger. Nowadays, we're happily co-existing in different continents Bruce lives in Britain, Baker in South Africa ... although I was thinking of asking him to move. He's still a bit too close".
Baker lived in Parker, Colorado, a rural suburb of Denver, between 1993 and 1999, in part due to his passion for polo. Baker not only participated in polo events at the Salisbury Equestrian Park, but he also sponsored an ongoing series of jam sessions and concerts at the equestrian centre on weekends.
In 2008 a bank clerk, Lindiwe Noko, was charged with defrauding him of almost one-half million Rand ($60,000). The bank clerk claimed that it was a gift after she and Baker became lovers. Not so, insisted Baker, who explained, "I've a scar that only a woman who had a thing with me would know. It's there and she doesn't know it's there". Noko was convicted of fraud and in October 2010 was sentenced to three years "correctional supervision" (a type of community service).
Baker's autobiography Hellraiser was published in 2009.
Baker has COPD, a lung disease.
In 2013 and 2014 Baker toured with the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion, a quartet comprising Baker, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and percussionist Abass Dodoo.
In 2014 Baker signed with record label Motéma Music to release a new jazz album. The album will feature members of the aforementioned quartet he toured with in 2013.
In 2012 the documentary film Beware Of Mr. Baker of Ginger Baker's life by Jay Bulger had its world premiere at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas where it won the grand jury award for best documentary feature. The film was nominated for the Grierson Award at the 2012 British Film Institute Awards.
Ginger Baker in Africa (1971) documents Baker's drive from Algeria to Nigeria (across the Sahara desert by Range Rover), where in the capital, Lagos, he sets up a recording studio and jams with Fela Kuti.
Baker cited Phil Seamen, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones and Baby Dodds as influences on his style.
His drumming attracted attention for its flamboyance, showmanship and his use of two bass drums instead of the conventional single bass drum (following a similar set-up used by Louie Bellson during his days with Duke Ellington). Although a firmly established rock drummer and praised as "Rock's first superstar drummer", he prefers being called a jazz drummer.
While at times performing similarly to Keith Moon from The Who, Baker also employs a more restrained style influenced by the British jazz groups he heard during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In his early days as a drummer, he performed lengthy drum solos, the best known being the five-minute drum solo "Toad" from Cream's debut album Fresh Cream (1966). He is also noted for using a variety of other percussion instruments and for his application of African rhythms. He would often emphasise the flam, a drum rudiment in which both sticks attack the drumhead at almost the same time, giving a heavy thunderous sound.
Baker's style influenced many drummers, including John Bonham,Peter Criss,Neil Peart,Stewart Copeland,Ian Paice,Tommy Aldridge,Bill Bruford,Alex Van Halen,Danny Seraphine and Nick Mason.
AllMusic has described him as "the most influential percussionist of the 1960s" and stated that "virtually every drummer of every heavy metal band that has followed since that time has sought to emulate some aspect of Baker's playing". Neil Peart has said: "His playing was revolutionary - extrovert, primal and inventive. He set the bar for what rock drumming could be. ... Every rock drummer since has been influenced in some way by Ginger - even if they don't know it".