Ginger Baker, the volatile and propulsive British musician best known for his time with the power trio Cream, has died at age 80, his family says.
Baker's family said on Twitter that he died on Sunday: "We are very sad to say that Ginger died peacefully in the hospital this morning."
Gary Hibbert, Baker family media representative, confirmed his death.
Baker exercised his blues power and jazz technique to help open up popular music and become one of the most admired and feared musicians in the world.
With bright eyes and orange-red hair and a matching temperament, the London native has labeled Led Zeppelin's The Who, Keith Moon and John Bonham as the embodiment of musical and personal fury. Using dual drums, Baker created an extraordinarily fast and heavy polyrhythmic style that inspired and intimidated countless musicians. But each hit seemed to reflect a behind-the-scenes eruption – whether it was his violent aversion to Cream Jack bandmate Bruce or his camera attack on a documentary filmmaker, Jay Bulger, who he hit his nose with his cane.
Bulger would call the movie, released in 2012, "Beware of Mr. Baker."
While Rolling Stone magazine ranked him as the third greatest drummer of all time, behind Moon and Bonham, Baker had contempt for Moon and others he considered "shy" without style or training. Baker and his many admirers saw him as a sophisticated, rounded musician – an arranger, composer, and craft student absorbing sounds from around the world. He has been playing jazz since his teens and spent years in Africa in the 1970s, forming a close friendship with Nigerian musician-activist Fela Kuti.
"He was so unique and had such a distinctive personality," police Stewart Copeland told www.musicradar.com in 2013. "No one else followed in their footsteps. Everyone tried to be John Bonham and copy their licks, but it's rare. that you hear someone doing the Ginger Baker thing. "
But many fans considered him a rock star, who joined Eric Clapton and Bruce in the mid-1960s to become Cream – one of the first supergroups and first triplets of power. All three were individually known in the London blues scene and together helped to make rock history, raising instrumental prowess above the songs themselves, even when they had hits with "Sunshine of Your Love", "I Feel Free" and "White Room".
Cream was among the most successful acts of its time, selling over 10 million records. But by 1968 Baker and Bruce had worn out and even Clapton had grown tired of their deafening marathons, including Baker's "Toad" showcase, one of rock's first drum solos. The cream ended at the end of the year, leaving with two sold-out shows at Albert Hall in London. When Bulger said he was the founding father of heavy metal, Baker growled 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 keyboardist singer Stevie Winwood and bassist Ric Grech.
As Clapton would remember, he and Winwood were playing informally when Baker appeared (Baker would claim Clapton invited him). Named Blind Faith for a sad Clapton, the band was impressed with expectations from the moment it debuted in June 1969 before about 100,000 at a concert in London's Hyde Park. He broke up after completing just one self-titled album, as notable for his cover photo of a topless girl as for his music. A highlight of the record: Baker's cymbals play Winwood's lyrical ballad "Can't Find My Way Home".
From the 1970s, Baker was increasingly unpredictable. He moved to Nigeria, took a polo, drove a Land Rover through the Sahara, lived on a farm in South Africa, divorced his first wife, and married three more times.
He recorded with Kuti and other Nigerians, played with Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and other jazz drummers, and played with John Lydon's Public Image Ltd.. He founded the Ginger Baker Air Force, which cost a fortune and imploded after two albums. He endured his former enemy, Bruce, when Cream was introduced to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and to Cream's reunion shows a decade later. Bruce died in 2014.
Baker continued to perform regularly in his 70s, despite arthritis, heart problems, hearing loss from Cream's years, and smoking-induced lung disease. With no strangers to addictions and no fan of modesty, he called his memoirs "Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Drummer."
"John Bonham once stated that there were only two drummers in British rock & roll; he and Ginger Baker," Baker wrote in his book. "My reaction to that was: & # 39; you cheeky bastard!"
Born in 1939, Peter Edward Baker was the son of a bricklayer killed during World War II, when Ginger was just 4 years old. His father left a letter that Ginger Baker would quote: "Use your fists; they are your best friends so often."
Baker was a drummer from the start, even playing rhythms on his school desk, mimicking the big band music he loved and not letting a teacher's occasional chant dissuade him. As a teenager, he played in local groups and was coached by percussionist Phil Seamen.
"At this party, there was a little band and all the kids were screaming at me," Playing the drums! "Baker told The Independent in 2009." I had never sat behind a kit before, but I was I sat down – and I could play! One of the musicians turned around and said, "Wow, we have a drummer," and I thought, "Wow, I'm a drummer." 39;
Baker came of age when London was learning the blues, with future stars such as Clapton, Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page among the pioneers. Baker joined Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, where he met (and soon disliked, supposedly playing too loudly) Scottish bassist Jack Bruce, with whom he was again summoned as members of the popular British group Graham Bond Organization.
Meanwhile, Clapton was London's hottest guitarist, thanks to his work with John Mayall's Yardbirds and Blues Breakers, his extraordinary speed and agility inspiring the "Clapton is God" graffiti. Clapton, Baker and Bruce would call their band Cream because they considered themselves the best musicians in the world.
"Oh, for God's sake, I never played rock music," Baker told the JazzWax blog in 2013. "Cream was two jazz players and a blues guitarist playing makeshift music. We never played the same thing two nights in a row. Jack and I played was in jazz bands for years. All the things I did on the drums in Cream didn't come from drugs either. It was from me. It was jazz. "
We are very sad to say that Ginger died peacefully in the hospital this morning. Thank you all for your kind words in recent weeks.
– Ginger Baker (@GingerBDrums) October 6, 2019