Ginger Baker, Cream Drummer, dead at 80

Discussion in 'Obituaries' started by Debi, Oct 6, 2019.

  1. Debi

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    Ginger Baker, legendary Cream drummer, dead at 80

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    Ginger Baker, the volatile and propulsive British musician who was best known for his time with the power trio Cream, died Sunday at age 80, his family said.

    Baker wielded his blues power and jazz technique to help break open popular music and become one of the world's most admired and feared musicians.

    With blazing eyes, orange-red hair and a temperament to match, the London native ranked with The Who's Keith Moon and Led Zeppelin's John Bonham as the embodiment of musical and personal fury. Using twin bass drums, Baker fashioned a pounding, poly-rhythmic style uncommonly swift and heavy that inspired and intimidated countless musicians. But every beat seemed to mirror an offstage eruption — whether his violent dislike of Cream bandmate Jack Bruce or his on-camera assault of a documentary maker, Jay Bulger, whom he smashed in the nose with his walking stick.

    Bulger would call the film, released in 2012, "Beware of Mr. Baker."

    Baker's family said on Twitter that he died Sunday: "We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully in hospital this morning."

    His daughter Nettie confirmed that Baker died in Britain but gave no other details. The family had said on Sept. 25 that Baker was critically ill in the hospital.

    While Rolling Stone magazine once ranked him the third-greatest rock drummer of all time, behind Moon and Bonham, Baker had contempt for Moon and others he dismissed as "bashers" without style or background. Baker and his many admirers saw him as a rounded, sophisticated musician — an arranger, composer and student of the craft, absorbing sounds from around the world. He had been playing jazz since he was a teenager and spent years in Africa in the 1970s, forming a close friendship with the Nigerian musician-activist Fela Kuti.

    "He was so unique and had such a distinctive personality," Stewart Copeland of the Police told www.musicradar.com in 2013. "Nobody else followed in his footsteps. Everybody tried to be John Bonham and copy his licks, but it's rare that you hear anybody doing the Ginger Baker thing."

    But many fans thought of Baker as a rock star, who teamed with Eric Clapton and Bruce in the mid-1960s to become Cream — one of the first supergroups and first power trios. All three were known individually in the London blues scene and together they helped make rock history by elevating instrumental prowess above the songs themselves, even as 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 more than 10 million records. But by 1968 Baker and Bruce had worn each other out and even Clapton had tired of their deafening, marathon jams, including the Baker showcase "Toad," one of rock's first extended drum solos. Cream split up at the end of the year, departing with two sold-out shows at London's Albert Hall. When told by Bulger that he was a founding father of heavy metal, Baker snarled that the genre "should have been aborted."
     

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