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Ginger Baker, the drummer for rock supergroups Cream and Blind Faith, dies at 80

 

Ginger Baker on stage with Cream in London 
 

Ginger Baker, the volatile and propulsive British musician who was best known for his time with the rock supergroup Cream, has died at 80, his family says.

Baker's family said on Twitter that he died Sunday: "We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully in hospital this morning."

Gary Hibbert, a media representative for Baker's family, confirmed his death.

Baker wielded his blues power and jazz technique to help break open popular music and become one of the world's most admired and feared musicians.

With blazing eyes and orange-red hair, and a temperament to match, the London native ranked with The Who's Keith Moon and Led Zeppelin's John Bonham as the embodiment of musical and personal fury. Using twin bass drums, Baker fashioned a pounding, poly-rhythmic style uncommonly swift and heavy that inspired and intimidated countless musicians. 

But every beat seemed to mirror an offstage eruption — whether his violent dislike of Cream bandmate Jack Bruce or his on-camera assault of a documentary maker, Jay Bulger, whom he smashed in the nose with his walking stick.

Bulger would call the documentary, released in 2012, "Beware of Mr. Baker.

While the Rolling Stone magazine once ranked him the third-greatest rock drummer of all time, behind Moon and Bonham, Baker had contempt for Moon and others he dismissed as "bashers" without style or background.

Baker and his many admirers saw him as a rounded, sophisticated musician — an arranger, composer and student of the craft absorbing sounds from around the world. 

He had been playing jazz since he was a teenager and spent years in Africa in the 1970s, forming a close friendship with the Nigerian musician-activist Fela Kuti.

"He was so unique and had such a distinctive personality," Stewart Copeland of the Police told www.musicradar.com in 2013. 

 

Rock stardom with Clapton, Bruce and Cream

But many fans thought of him as a rock star, who teamed with Eric Clapton and Bruce in the mid-1960s to become Cream — one of the first supergroups and first power trios. 

All three were known individually in the London blues scene and together they helped make rock history by elevating instrumental prowess above the songs themselves, even as they had hits with Sunshine of Your Love, I Feel Free and White Room.

Clapton, Baker and Bruce would call their band Cream because they considered themselves the best musicians around.

Cream was among the most successful acts of its time, selling more than 10 million records. 

But by 1968 Baker and Bruce had worn each other out and even Clapton had tired of their deafening, marathon jams, including the Baker showcase Toad, one of rock's first extended drum solos. 

Cream split up at the end of that year, departing with two sold-out shows at London's Albert Hall. 

When told by Bulger that he was a founding father of heavy metal, Baker snarled that the genre "should have been aborted."

To the surprise of many, especially Clapton, he and Baker were soon part of another super group, Blind Faith, which also featured singer-keyboardist Stevie Winwood and bassist Ric Grech.

As Clapton would recall, he and Winwood had been playing informally when Baker turned up (Baker would allege that Clapton invited him). 

Named Blind Faith by a rueful Clapton, the band was overwhelmed by expectations from the moment it debuted in June 1969 before some 100,000 at a concert in London's Hyde Park. 

It split up after completing just one, self-titled album, as notable for its cover photo of a topless young girl as for its music. 

A highlight from the record was Baker's cymbal splashes on Winwood's lyrical ballad Can't Find My Way Home.

From the 1970s on, Baker was ever more unpredictable. He moved to Nigeria, took up polo, drove a Land Rover across the Sahara, lived on a ranch in South Africa, divorced his first wife and married three more times.

He recorded with Kuti and other Nigerians, jammed with Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and other jazz drummers and played with John Lydon's Public Image Ltd. 

He founded Ginger Baker's Air Force, which cost a fortune and imploded after two albums. 

He endured his old enemy, Bruce, when Cream was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and for Cream reunion concerts a decade later. Bruce died in 2014.

Baker continued to perform regularly in his 70s despite arthritis, heart trouble, hearing loss dating from his years with Cream and lung disease from smoking. No strangers to vices and not a fan of modesty, he called his memoir "Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Drummer." 

'Use your fists; they're your best pals so often'

Born in 1939, Peter Edward Baker was the son of a bricklayer killed during World War II when Ginger was just 4. 

His father left behind a letter that Ginger Baker would quote from: "Use your fists; they're your best pals so often."

Baker was a drummer from early on, even rapping out rhythms on his school desk as he mimicked the big band music he loved and didn't let the occasional caning from a teacher deter him. 

As a teenager, he was playing in local groups and was mentored by percussionist Phil Seamen.

"At this party, there was a little band and all the kids chanted at me, 'Play the drums!''', Baker told The Independent in 2009. 

"I'd never sat behind a kit before, but I sat down — and I could play! One of the musicians turned round and said, 'Bloody hell, we've got a drummer', and I thought, 'Bloody hell, I'm a drummer.'"

"Oh for god's sake, I've never played rock," Baker told the blog JazzWax in 2013. 

"Cream was two jazz players and a blues guitarist playing improvised music. We never played the same thing two nights running. Jack and I had been in jazz bands for years. All that stuff I did on the drums in Cream didn't come from drugs, either. It was from me. It was jazz."

 

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Ruudboy   

The greatest jazz drummer ever, up there with Gene Krupa. Quite took the edge off both Manchesters losing and a great performance in Southampton. God bless you and keep you, Sir Ginger, the angels will be rocking tonight.

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Neil Peart , drummer and lyricist of RUSH has died of brain cancer at 67 .

This one has really hurt , growing up being just a few years too young to experience the thrill of punk my musical journey exploded with the heavy metal resurgence in the late seventies , early eighties . Me and my two friends from school inspired by "All the world's a stage" Rush's live double album started out own power trio eventually morphing into a half way decent band that we toured the UK in.

But it all started with RUSH and Neil was an incredible drummer and supreme lyricist . 

May be rest in peace .

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Holymoly   
On 19/01/2016 at 7:07 PM, NoblyBobly said:

^^ Great story Mark!  Motorhead could have done a special  remix of that Terrence Trent Derby song for your friend....... 'Sign Your Name Across Your Puke'.

A missed opportunity!

Jesus, talk about necroing a dead post but I though I'd add my Lemmy story. Back in the day (probably early 80s) my mate and I were in Dingwalls at Camden Lock. In walks Lemmy with  a pair of the most stunningly beautiful twins on his arm you have ever seen. My mate runs over to him and starts yammering away to him while I hang back, far too cool for school. Lemmy keeps looking my way and eventually blanks my friend and asks me if I was a music journalist. I suavely asked what if I was (I wasn't, I was a spotty student) to which he promtly replied that he'd rip my head off and **** down throat. I hurriedly appraised him that in that case I wasn't a journalist to which he responded that I was fine but I could still **** off but did I want to take one of the twins with me.

Ah, good times.

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Ham   
2 hours ago, Holymoly said:

Jesus, talk about necroing a dead post but I though I'd add my Lemmy story. Back in the day (probably early 80s) my mate and I were in Dingwalls at Camden Lock. In walks Lemmy with  a pair of the most stunningly beautiful twins on his arm you have ever seen. My mate runs over to him and starts yammering away to him while I hang back, far too cool for school. Lemmy keeps looking my way and eventually blanks my friend and asks me if I was a music journalist. I suavely asked what if I was (I wasn't, I was a spotty student) to which he promtly replied that he'd rip my head off and **** down throat. I hurriedly appraised him that in that case I wasn't a journalist to which he responded that I was fine but I could still **** off but did I want to take one of the twins with me.

Ah, good times.

😆🤘

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Ham   
20 minutes ago, ShedEndMassive said:

To this day I wonder if I'm actually “alive” or if I’m alone - A drifting consciousness lingering in an endless construct of my own imagination.

 

I was just about to post the very same thing.

 

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Ruudboy   

John Prine, Who Chronicled the Human Condition in Song, Dies at 73

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/arts/music/john-prine-dead-coronavirus.html?searchResultPosition=2

In my folk club days, Sam Stone was part of my repertoire, along with Everybody. Always went down well. Saw him with Steve Goodman at Cambridge Folk Festival (Goodman died shortly after of cancer) back in the 70s. Always loved the man and his wry sense of humour. When he started, he thought you couldn’t repeat a song from performance to performance, hence he was so prolific. A singer for our times: “You don’t have to sympathise or condone what they may do, but everybody needs somebody that they can talk to”. Farewell, John, and thanks.

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