Gin­ger Baker, vir­tu­osic rock drum­mer for Cream, dies at 80

The Peterborough Examiner - - ARTS & LIFE - RANDY LEWIS LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES

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.

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