Often irascible and difficult, sometimes just plain rude, Ginger Baker wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with, assuming most accounts are to be believed. As if often the case, with such difficulty came genuine brilliance. Few could deny that Ginger was one of the finest drummers who ever lived.
Often considered the best rock drummer of his generation, it was an accolade that Baker hated. He never liked being referred to as a “rock drummer” or being placed in a triumvirat with John Bonham and Keith Moon. He didn’t particularly consider himself to be one of their peers. In his own words, Keith was a friend but “not a great drummer”. He often said that great drumming needed to swing and felt that although he “had technique, John Bonham couldn’t swing a sack of shit.” Baker was – first and foremost – a jazz drummer who often played with blues and rock bands. Woe betide anyone call Ginger a rock drummer.
Although best known for his two and a half years playing with the tempestuous Cream and a stint with the still-born miracle Blind Faith, Baker’s long career runs far deeper. He drummed with Graham Bond; formed his own jazz rock ensemble Air Force; recorded works with jazz fusion legend Fela Kuti. He even recorded some eighteen solo albums that seem destined to be appreciated by only the very faithful.
Baker had a short stint with Hawkwind, recorded a eulogy for the British cuppa with stoner rock band Masters of Reality and appeared on albums by John Lydon’s Public Image Limited and The Police’s Andy Summers. As great as Cream were, and always worthy of their accolades, all of these lesser appreciated works give Baker’s career more depth, even if they are a world away from the white room with black curtains, the psycehedelia of bearded rainbows and Pressed Rat’s collection of dog legs and feet.
A versatile player, for years, it felt like you’d never know where Baker would pop up next. He was a one off. A true legend. We’ll never see his like again.
Real Gone takes a look back at a few deeper cuts in Ginger’s recorded legacy. We hope you enjoy these clips and they inspire you to explore more of the musical treasures that Peter Edward Baker left us.