Peter Edward "Ginger" Baker (born 19 August 1939) is an English drummer, best known as the founder of the rock band Cream. Baker's work in the 1960s earned him praise as "rock's first superstar drummer", although his individual style melded a jazz background with his personal interest in African rhythms. Baker is an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Cream and is widely considered one of the most influential drummers of all time.
Baker began playing drums at age 15, and later took lessons from Phil Seamen. In the 1960s, he joined Blues Incorporated, where he met bassist Jack Bruce. The two clashed often, but would be rhythm section partners again in The Graham Bond Organisation and Cream, the latter of which Baker co-founded with Eric Clapton in 1966. Cream achieved worldwide success but lasted just two years, in part due to Baker's and Bruce's volatile relationship. After briefly working with Clapton in Blind Faith and leading Ginger Baker's Air Force, Baker spent several years in the 1970s living and recording in Africa, often with Fela Kuti, in pursuit of his long-time interest in African music. Among Baker's other collaborations are his work with Gary Moore, Masters of Reality and Public Image Ltd, Atomic Rooster, Bill Laswell, jazz bassist Charlie Haden, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and another personally led effort, Ginger Baker's Energy.
Baker's drumming attracted attention for his style, showmanship, and use of two bass drums instead of the conventional one. In his early days, he performed lengthy drum solos, the best known being the five-minute solo from the Cream song "Toad", one of the earliest recorded examples in rock music. Baker is noted for his eccentric, often self-destructive lifestyle; he struggled with heroin addiction for many years, moved around the world often after making enemies, and has been beset with financial and tax troubles, partially as a result of his polo hobby. He has been married four times and has fathered three children.
Early life and career:
Baker was born in Lewisham, South London. His mother worked in a tobacco shop; his father, Frederick Louvain Formidable Baker, was a bricklayer and Lance Corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals in WWII who died in the 1943 Dodecanese Campaign.
An athletic child, Baker began playing drums at about 15 years old. In the early 1960s he took lessons from Phil Seamen, one of the leading British jazz drummers of the post-war era. He gained early fame as a member of The Graham Bond Organisation, a R&B/blues group with strong jazz leanings, where he first met bassist Jack Bruce.
Baker founded the rock band Cream in 1966 with Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton. An innovative and fusion of blues, psychedelic rock and hard rock, the band released four albums in a little over two years before breaking up in 1968.
Baker then joined the short-lived "supergroup" Blind Faith, composed of Clapton, bassist Ric Grech, and Stevie Winwood on vocals. They released one album.
Ginger Baker's Air Force:
In 1970 Baker formed, toured and recorded with fusion rock group Ginger Baker's Air Force.
Baker lived in Nigeria from 1970 until 1976. He sat in for Fela Kuti during recording sessions in 1971 released by Regal Zonophone as Live! (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.
1980s and '90s:
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., the latter leading to occasional collaborations with bassist/producer Bill Laswell.
In 1992 Baker played with the hard-rock group Masters of Reality with bassist Googe and singer/guitarist Chris Goss on the album Sunrise on the Sufferbus. The album received critical acclaim but sold fewer than 10,000 copies.
In 1994 he formed The Ginger Baker Trio with bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Bill Frisell. He also 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 reunited with Eric Clapton and Bruce for a series of Cream 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 half a 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 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 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.
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.
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 one (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 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,Terry Bozzio,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".Modern Drummer magazine has described him as "one of classic rock's first influential drumming superstars of the 1960s" and "one of classic rock's true drum gods".
DRUM! Magazine listed Baker among the "50 Most Important Drummers of All Time" and has defined him as "one of the most imitated '60s drummers", stating also that "he forever changed the face of rock music". He was voted the ninth greatest drummer of all time in a Rolling Stone reader poll and has been considered the "drummer who practically invented the rock drum solo". According to writer Ken Micalief in his book Classic Rock Drummers: "the pantheon of contemporary drummers from metal, fusion, and rock owe their very existence to Baker's trailblazing work with Cream".
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".
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