Ginger Baker Dies Aged 80
Legendary Cream drummer Peter Edward (Ginger) Baker, arguably one of the the most innovative and influential drummers in rock music, has died at the age of 80.
Mr Baker had a long career, and although famous for co-founding the band Cream, he also played drums in his unique style of jazz meets rock, for Blond Faith, Hawkwind and Fela Kuti.
He earned the nickname ‘Ginger’ for his flaming red hair, and was a temperamental and argumentative figure, whose behaviour frequently led to on-stage punch-ups.
Playing the drums wasn’t Mr Baker’s first choice. His early ambition was to ride in the Tour de France, but had to give up that ambition when his bicycle was involved in an incident with a taxi. The cycling world’s loss was the musical wold’s gain.
Mr Baker recalled:
“I was always banging on the desks at school. So all the kids kept saying, ‘Go on, go and play the drums’, and I just sat down and I could play.
“It’s a gift from God. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. And I’ve got it: time. Natural time.”
Mr Baker enjoyed a vast and varied music career.
In later years, he was beset by ill health, breaking most of his ribs and subsequently being diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition and the onset of emphysema.
The musician fought osteoarthritis to record his final album, Why?, in 2014. Two years later, he underwent open heart surgery and announced his retirement from touring.
“Just seen doctor… big shock… no more gigs for this old drummer… everything is off,” he wrote on his official blog.
“Of all things I never thought it would be my heart.”
Baker’s death will see him feted as one of rock’s most influential musicians, but he scoffed at such accolades, insisting:
“Drummers are really nothing more than time-keepers.”
He told Rhythm magazine:
“It’s the drummer’s job to make the other guys sound good.”