Ginger Baker, virtuosic rock drummer for Cream, dies at 80
Ginger Baker, esteemed as one of the most virtuosic drummers ever to sit behind a kit through his innovative work with English rock bands Cream and the short-lived Blind Faith, died on Sunday. He was 80.
His Facebook page posted, “We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully in hospital this morning. Thank you to everyone for your kind words over the past weeks.” Baker’s family had previously issued statements on Twitter and Facebook saying that he was “critically ill” and asking fans to “please keep him in your prayers.”
Baker revealed in 2013 that he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after a lifetime of smoking. He underwent openheart surgery in 2016. He also suffered chronic back pain from degenerative osteoarthritis.
Baker formed Cream in 1966 with guitarist Eric Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce. Clapton had emerged as a stellar guitarist during his stint with the Yardbirds, while Baker and Bruce both established their credentials as members of the Graham Bond Organization.
Peter Edward Baker was born Aug. 19, 1939, in Lewisham, a borough of south London. He grew up in postwar England admiring jazz drummers including countryman Phil Seamen, from whom he took lessons as a teenager — although he described himself as largely selftaught — as well as American drummers such as Max Roach, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones.
“He changed the game,” said John Sykes, incoming chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted Cream in 1993. “I was in awe of him because he was trained as a jazz drummer and played in a completely different way, and sounded different from most [rock] drummers, like Charlie Watts.”
Cream released four albums before disbanding in 1968, among them “Fresh Cream,” which included Baker’s fiveminute drum solo on the track “Toad,” which quickly became a highlight of the group’s concerts.
Baker went on to form the supergroup Blind Faith, teaming again with Clapton, as well as bassist Ric Grech from the band Family and organist-singer Steve Winwood from Traffic. The quartet released just one album, “Blind Faith,” and then disbanded.
Baker, Clapton and Bruce came together again in 2005 for four shows at the Royal Albert Hall, documented in a live recording. Bruce died in 2014 at age 71.
Baker published his autobiography, “Hellraiser,” in 2009, and resumed touring in 2013 and 2014 with Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion, consisting of saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and percussionist Abass Dodoo.
Ginger Baker in May, 2013. The Cream drummer died Sunday.