Ginger Baker

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Ginger Baker
Baker behind an elaborate drum kit
Ginger Baker in March 1980
Background information
Birth name Peter Edward Baker
Born (1939-08-19) 19 August 1939 (age 76)
Lewisham, south London, England
Genres Jazz, rock, blues
Occupation(s) Drummer, bandleader, songwriter
Instruments Drums, percussion, vocals
Years active 1956 - Present
Labels Polydor, Warner Bros., Island, Universal, Atlantic
Associated acts
Website gingerbaker.com

Peter Edward "Ginger" Baker (born 19 August 1939) is an English drummer, best known as the founder of the rock band Cream.[1] Baker's work in the 1960s earned him praise as "rock's first superstar drummer", although his individual style melded a jazz background with his personal interest in African rhythms. Baker is an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Cream and is widely considered one of the most influential drummers of all time, recognised by his induction into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2008.[2] In 2016, he was ranked 3rd on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Drummers of All Time".[3] Baker is credited as a pioneer of drumming in genres like jazz fusion, heavy metal and world music.[4]

Baker began playing drums at age 15 around 1954, and later took lessons from Phil Seamen. In the 1960s, he joined Blues Incorporated, where he met bassist Jack Bruce. The two clashed often, but would be rhythm section partners again in the Graham Bond Organisation and Cream, the latter of which Baker co-founded with Eric Clapton in 1966. Cream achieved worldwide success but only lasted until 1968, Cream's two-year lifespan was in part due to Baker's and Bruce's volatile relationship. After briefly working with Clapton in Blind Faith and leading Ginger Baker's Air Force, Baker spent several years in the 1970s living and recording in Africa, often with Fela Kuti, in pursuit of his long-time interest in African music. Among Baker's other collaborations are his work with Gary Moore, Masters of Reality, Public Image Ltd, Atomic Rooster, Bill Laswell, jazz bassist Charlie Haden, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and another personally led effort, Ginger Baker's Energy.

Baker's drumming attracted attention for his style, showmanship, and use of two bass drums instead of the conventional one. In his early days, he performed lengthy drum solos, most notably in the Cream song "Toad", one of the earliest recorded examples in rock music. Baker is noted for his eccentric, often self-destructive lifestyle; he struggled with heroin addiction for many years, moved around the world often after making enemies, and has been beset with financial and tax troubles, partially as a result of his polo hobby. He has been married four times and has fathered three children.

Biography[edit]

Baker performing with Cream on the Dutch television program "Fanclub" in 1968

Early life and career[edit]

Baker was born in Lewisham, south London. His mother worked in a tobacco shop; his father, Frederick Louvain Formidable Baker, was a bricklayer and Lance Corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals in WWII who died in the 1943 Dodecanese Campaign.[5]

An athletic child, Baker began playing drums at about 15 years old. In the early 1960s he took lessons from Phil Seamen, one of the leading British jazz drummers of the post-war era. He gained early fame as a member of the Graham Bond Organisation with future Cream bandmate Jack Bruce. The Graham Bond Organisation was an R&B/blues group with strong jazz leanings.

Cream[edit]

Main article: Cream (band)

Baker founded the rock band Cream in 1966 with Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton. An innovative fusion of blues, psychedelic rock and hard rock, the band released four albums in a little over two years before breaking up in 1968.[6]

Blind Faith[edit]

Main article: Blind Faith
Baker (second from right) with Blind Faith, 1969

Baker then joined the short-lived "supergroup" Blind Faith, composed of Clapton, bassist Ric Grech, and Stevie Winwood on vocals. They released one album.

Ginger Baker's Air Force[edit]

In 1970 Baker formed, toured and recorded with fusion rock group Ginger Baker's Air Force.

1970s[edit]

Baker lived in Nigeria from 1970 until 1976.[7] He sat in for Fela Kuti[8] during recording sessions in 1971 released by Regal Zonophone as Live! (1971)'[9] Fela also appeared with Ginger Baker on Stratavarious (1972) alongside Bobby Gass,[10] a pseudonym for Bobby Tench[1] from the Jeff Beck Group. Stratavarious was later re-issued as part of the compilation Do What You Like.[11] Baker formed Baker Gurvitz Army in 1974 and recorded three albums with them before the band broke up in 1976.

1980s and 1990s[edit]

In the early 1980s, Baker joined Hawkwind for an album and tour, and in the mid-1980s was part of John Lydon's Public Image Ltd., the latter leading to occasional collaborations with bassist/producer Bill Laswell.

In 1992 Baker played with the hard-rock group Masters of Reality with bassist Googe and singer/guitarist Chris Goss on the album Sunrise on the Sufferbus. The album received critical acclaim but sold fewer than 10,000 copies.

Baker lived in Parker, Colorado, a rural suburb of Denver, between 1993 and 1999, in part due to his passion for polo. Baker not only participated in polo events at the Salisbury Equestrian Park, but he also sponsored an ongoing series of jam sessions and concerts at the equestrian centre on weekends.[12]

In 1994 he formed The Ginger Baker Trio with bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Bill Frisell. He also joined BBM, a short-lived power trio with the line-up of Baker, Jack Bruce and Irish blues rock guitarist Gary Moore.

2000s[edit]

On 3 May 2005, Baker reunited with Eric Clapton and Bruce for a series of Cream concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden. The London concerts were recorded and released as Royal Albert Hall London May 2–3–5–6 2005 (2005),[13] In a Rolling Stone article written in 2009, Bruce is quoted as saying: "It's a knife-edge thing between me and Ginger. Nowadays, we're happily co-existing in different continents [Bruce lives in Britain, Baker in South Africa] ... although I was thinking of asking him to move. He's still a bit too close".[14]

Baker performing in 2011

In 2008 a bank clerk, Lindiwe Noko, was charged with defrauding him of almost half a million Rand ($60,000).[15] The bank clerk claimed that it was a gift after she and Baker became lovers. Not so, insisted Baker, who explained, "I've a scar that only a woman who had a thing with me would know. It's there and she doesn't know it's there".[16] Noko was convicted of fraud and in October 2010 was sentenced to three years "correctional supervision" (a type of community service).[17]

Baker's autobiography Hellraiser was published in 2009.[1]

Baker has Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disease.

In 2013 and 2014 Baker toured with the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion, a quartet comprising Baker, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and percussionist Abass Dodoo.[18]

In 2014 Baker signed with record label Motéma Music to release a new jazz album. The album will feature members of the aforementioned quartet.[19]

In February 2016, Baker announced he had been diagnosed with "serious heart issues" and cancelled all future gigs until further notice.[20] Writing on his blog, he said, "Just seen doctor... big shock… no more gigs for this old drummer... everything is off... of all things I never thought it would be my heart..." Little is known about Baker's sudden and serious illness.[21] In late March 2016, it was revealed that Baker is now set for pioneering treatment after explaining: "There are two options for surgery and, depending on how strong my old lungs are, they may do both." He added: "Cardiologist is brilliant. Yesterday he inserted a tube into the artery at my right wrist and fed it all the way to my heart – quite an experience. He was taking pictures of my heart from inside – amazing technology... He says he's going to get me playing again! Thanks all for your support."[22]

Documentaries[edit]

In 2012, the documentary film Beware of Mr. Baker of Ginger Baker's life by Jay Bulger had its world premiere at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas where it won the grand jury award for best documentary feature. It received its UK premiere on BBC One on 7 July 2015[23][24] as part of the channel's Imagine series.

Ginger Baker in Africa (1971) documents Baker's drive from Algeria to Nigeria (across the Sahara desert by Range Rover), where in the capital, Lagos, he sets up a recording studio and jams with Fela Kuti.

Style and technique[edit]

Baker cited Phil Seamen, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones and Baby Dodds as influences on his style.[25]

Baker's early performance attracted attention for both his innate musicality and showmanship. Baker was a pioneer in the use of two bass drums in rock and roll music - though in the jazz idiom, a similar set-up had previously been used by Louie Bellson during his days with Duke Ellington. This double bass drum set-up and technique later became a mainstay of hard rock and heavy metal music. While he became famous during his time with Cream for his wild, unpredictable, and flamboyant performances that were often viewed in a vein similar to that of Keith Moon from the Who, Baker has also frequently employed a much more restrained and straightforward performance style influenced by the British jazz groups he heard during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In his early days, he developed what would later become the archetypal rock drum solo, with the best known example being the five-minute-long "Toad" from Cream's debut album Fresh Cream (1966).

Baker's strong jazz influence and experience is apparent throughout his recorded work, particularly in his philosophy of "time" and the role of a drummer as the "driving force" of an ensemble. While he is frequently seen playing with matched grip, Baker is equally proficient in the use of traditional grip, and made use of such on his instructional video "Master Drum Technique." Baker possesses both tremendous hand speed and outstanding finger control of the drumstick, which allows him to generate rapid and dynamically complex patterns marked by accents and rebounds while still conserving his overall limb movement - a technique that is developed and coveted extensively by jazz drummers. Baker is known to prefer a light, thin, fast-rebounding drumstick (size 7A), as opposed to the thicker, heavier sticks favored by most rock and heavy metal drummers. Baker was one of the first drummers in rock music to apply the concept of "coordinated independence" - a drum technique in which two (or more) limbs play rhythmic patterns that are completely separate, independent, and often contrapuntal to one another. Baker's recorded solos make use of sophisticated syncopation and technically complex ride cymbal patterns characteristic of bebop and other advanced forms of jazz. He frequently employs differing tambres and colours in his percussive work, using a variety of other percussion instruments in addition to the standard drum kit. Baker was also one of the first rock drummers to make frequent use of timpani mallets, brushes, and other beaters/strikers in order to obtain the desired tone colour from his drums and cymbals. As mentioned previously, Baker's playing features the frequent application of African rhythms and groove patterns, particularly hemiolas and polyrhythms. Baker's jazz/fusion work features frequent rolls, drag variants, and drum-to-drum diddle patterns, while his work with Cream and Blind Faith was marked by an emphasis on both double stops and the flam, thereby producing a heavy, thunderous sound.

Somewhat atypically, Baker mounts all of the tom toms on his drum kit in a vertical fashion, with the shells of the drums perpendicular to the floor - as opposed to the more common practice of angling the hanging (or "rack") toms toward the player.

Although he is usually categorized as a "rock drummer," Baker himself prefers to be viewed as a jazz drummer, or as just "a drummer."[26]

Legacy[edit]

Baker's style influenced many drummers, including John Bonham,[27]Peter Criss,[28] Neil Peart,[29] Stewart Copeland,[30] Ian Paice,[31] Terry Bozzio,[32] Dave Lombardo,[33] Tommy Aldridge,[34] Bill Bruford,[35] Alex Van Halen,[36] Danny Seraphine[37] and Nick Mason.[38]

Modern Drummer magazine has described him as "one of classic rock's first influential drumming superstars of the 1960s" and "one of classic rock's true drum gods".[39] AllMusic has described him as "the most influential percussionist of the 1960s" and stated that "virtually every drummer of every heavy metal band that has followed since that time has sought to emulate some aspect of Baker's playing".[40] Although he is widely considered a pioneer of heavy metal drumming, Baker has expressed his repugnance for the genre.[41]

Drum! magazine listed Baker among the "50 Most Important Drummers of All Time" and has defined him as "one of the most imitated '60s drummers",[42] stating also that "he forever changed the face of rock music".[43] He was voted the ninth greatest drummer of all time in a Rolling Stone reader poll and has been considered the "drummer who practically invented the rock drum solo".[44] According to author and columnist Ken Micalief in his book Classic Rock Drummers: "the pantheon of contemporary drummers from metal, fusion, and rock owe their very existence to Baker's trailblazing work with Cream".[45]

Neil Peart has said: "His playing was revolutionary – extrovert, primal and inventive. He set the bar for what rock drumming could be. [...] Every rock drummer since has been influenced in some way by Ginger – even if they don't know it".[29]

Personal life[edit]

Baker and his wife, Liz Finch, had their first child, Ginette Karen, on 20 December 1960. Baker's second daughter, Leda, was born 20 February 1968. Baker's son Kofi Streatfield Baker was born in March 1969 and named for a friend of Baker's, a Ghanaian drummer named Kofi Ghanaba.[46]

Discography[edit]

Ginger Baker's Handprints at the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame

The Storyville Jazz Men and The Hugh Rainey Allstars[edit]

  • Storyville Re-Visited (1958) also featuring Bob Wallis and Ginger Baker

Alexis Korner Blues Incorporated[edit]

  • Alexis Korner and Friends (1963)

Graham Bond Organisation[edit]

  • Live at Klooks Kleek (1964)
  • The Sound of '65 (1965)
  • There's a Bond Between Us (1965)

Cream discography[edit]

Blind Faith discography[edit]

Ginger Baker's Air Force discography[edit]

Baker Gurvitz Army discography[edit]

Solo discography[edit]

  • Ginger Baker at His Best (1972)
  • Stratavarious Polydor (1972)
  • Ginger Baker & Friends Mountain (1976)
  • Eleven Sides of Baker Sire (1977)
  • From Humble Oranges CDG (1983)
  • Horses & Trees Celluloid (1986)
  • No Material live album ITM (1989)
  • Middle Passage Axiom (1990)
  • Unseen Rain Day Eight (1992)
  • Ginger Baker's Energy ITM (1992)
  • Going Back Home Atlantic (1994)
  • Ginger Baker The Album ITM (1995)
  • Falling Off the Roof Atlantic (1995)
  • Do What You Like Polydor (1998)
  • Coward of the County Atlantic (1999)
  • African Force (2001)
  • African Force: Palanquin's Pole (2006)
  • Why? (2014)

With Fela Kuti

Other[edit]

Instruments and sound[edit]

Baker's DW drumset (2009)

Baker's current kit is made by Drum Workshop. He used Ludwig drums until the late 1990s. All of his cymbals are made by Zildjian; the 22" rivet ride cymbal and the 14" hi-hats he currently uses are the same ones he used during the last two Cream tours in 1968.[47]

Drums[edit]

1960s
  • 20" × 14" Bass (right foot)
  • 22" × 14" Bass (left foot)
  • 12×8" & 13×9" top toms
  • 14×14" & 16×14" floor toms
  • 1940s 6.5" × 14" black finished Leedy Broadway wood Snare

Snare tuned high, toms and bass tuned low

In May 1968 Baker purchased a new Ludwig drum kit with 20" × 14" and 22" × 14" bass drums, a 14" × 5" metal Super-Sensitive snare and the same-sized toms for Cream's farewell tour.

Current drums
  • 10" × 8", 12" × 9", 13" × 10", 14" × 12", Toms on front rack stands
  • 20" × 14" & 22" × 14" Bass Drums
  • 13" × 5.5" DW Craviotto Snare
  • 14" × 6.5" Leedy Snare (Spare)
  • DW 5000 Accelerator Bass Drum Pedals
  • 4 DW cymbal stands
  • 1 DW 5000 HiHat Stand
  • 1 DW Snare Stand
  • Zildjian Ginger Baker 7a sticks

Cymbals[edit]

1963–present made by Zildjian[48]

1960s
  • 16" crash left upper
  • 13" crash left lower
  • 14" hi-hats left
  • 20" ride right front lower
  • 14" crash right front upper
  • 22" rivet crash/ride right back upper
  • 18" crash right back lower
  • 8" which Ginger once called a "joke effect" splash right of middle
Current
  • 16" K Dark Thin Crash
  • 14" A New Beat Hi Hats
  • 8" A Splash
  • 8" A Fast Splash
  • 10" A Splash
  • 8" A Splash
  • 13" Top Hat
  • 22" A Series Medium Ride Rivet Ride
  • 18" China
  • 18" A Medium Crash
  • Cow bells front right

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Baker, Ginger and Ginette. Hellraiser The autobiography of the World's Most Famous Drummer. John Blake Publishing. 
  2. ^ "Modern Drummer's Readers Poll Archive, 1979–2014". Modern Drummer. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "100 Greatest Drummers of All Time". Rolling Stone. April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016. 
  4. ^ Adam Budofski, The Drummer: 100 Years of Rhythmic Power and Invention, Hal Leonard Corporation, 2010
  5. ^ See the notes to the 1994 Atlantic Records album Going Back Home by the Ginger Baker Trio
  6. ^ Ginger Baker interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1970)
  7. ^ Jay Babcock (2 November 2009). "GINGER BAKER on Fela Kuti (1999) | Arthur Magazine". Arthurmag.com. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Dougan, John. "Fela Ransome-Kuti". allmusic.com. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  9. ^ "Ginger Baker. Live with Fela Kuti". allmusic.com. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  10. ^ "Stratavarious". allmusic.com. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  11. ^ "Ginger Baker compilations". allmusic.com. 
  12. ^ Hooper, Joseph. "Harmonic Convergence? Ginger Baker's Crazy Story". The New York Observer. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  13. ^ "Cream, The Royal Albert Hall London May 2–3–5–6 2005 album". allmusic.com. Retrieved 7 October 2015. 
  14. ^ "The Devil and Ginger Baker". www.rollingstone.com. Retrieved 7 October 2015. 
  15. ^ "Bank clerk defrauds drummer". news24.com. 31 August 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2008. 
  16. ^ "Cream drummer may flash ginger nuts in court". The Register. 11 June 2008. Retrieved 11 June 2008. 
  17. ^ Laing, Aislinn (20 October 2010). "Ginger Baker's assistant avoids jail over theft". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  18. ^ "Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion". The Apex, Bury St Edmunds. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  19. ^ [1][dead link]
  20. ^ Ginger is shocked by the news of his health
  21. ^ Kreps, Daniel (28 February 2016). "Ginger Baker Cancels Tour Due to 'Serious Heart Problems'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  22. ^ http://www.express.co.uk/celebrity-news/656559/Ginger-Baker-return-drums-thanks-to-surgery
  23. ^ Murphy, Mekado (14 March 2012). "'Beware of Mr. Baker' and 'Gimme the Loot' Win Grand Jury Prizes at SXSW". New York Times. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  24. ^ Hann, Michael (15 May 2013). "Meeting Ginger Baker: an experience to forget". theguardian.com. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  25. ^ "Ginger Baker interview November 2010". retrosellers.com. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  26. ^ Baker, Ginger (2006). Cream: Classic Artists (DVD). Image Entertainment, Inc. 
  27. ^ "Blokes". alex reisner's led zeppelin site. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  28. ^ "Peter Criss Interview 8/5/97". kissasylum.com. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  29. ^ a b Jay Bulger (20 August 2009). "The Devil and Ginger Baker". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  30. ^ "Stewart Copeland: Interview". effingham.net. July 1997. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  31. ^ "Ian Paice: Q&A". stuff.co.nz. 5 November 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  32. ^ Hugo Pinksterboer, The Cymbal Book, Hal Leonard Corporation, p.22
  33. ^ "Dave Lombardo: These Are My Top 3 All-Time Favorite Double-Bass Drummers". ultimate-guitar.com. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  34. ^ "Interview with Tommy Aldridge". mikedolbear.com. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  35. ^ "Interview:Bill Bruford (Yes,King Crimson,Genesis,Earthworks)". hit-channel.com. 10 April 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  36. ^ Ken Micallef (15 January 2008). "Alex Van Halen: Bashing and Crashing In the Here and Now". Modern Drummer. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  37. ^ "Danny Seraphine: Interview 1997". chicago-web.net. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  38. ^ Phil Sutcliffe (July 1995). "The 30 Year Technicolor Dream". Mojo Magazine. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  39. ^ "The Greats: Ginger Baker". moderndrummer.com. 12 March 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  40. ^ "Ginger Baker". allmusic.com. Retrieved 15 October 2010. 
  41. ^ "Legendary Cream Drummer Ginger Baker: 'I Loathe And Detest Heavy Metal'". blabbermouth.net. 14 June 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
  42. ^ "50 Most Important Drummers of All Time". drummagazine.com. 16 August 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  43. ^ Brad Schlueter (August 2007). "Hot Licks: Classic Ginger Baker '60s Drum Parts". drummagazine.com. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  44. ^ "Rolling Stone Readers Pick Best Drummers of All Time". Rolling Stone. 
  45. ^ Ken Micalief, Classic Rock Drummers, Backbeat Books, 2007, p. 10
  46. ^ Ginger Baker, Ginger Baker: Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Drummer, John Blake Publishing Ltd, 2010
  47. ^ "Ginger Baker's drum kit". ginger-baker.com. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  48. ^ "Ginger Baker Artist Page". zildjian.com. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 

References[edit]

  • Baker, Ginger and Ginette. Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World's Most Famous Drummer. John Blake Publishing (2009). ISBN 978-1-84454-817-0,

External links[edit]