Ginger Baker Biography

Peter Baker, 19 August 1939, Lewisham, London, England. This brilliantly erratic drummer was already a vastly experienced musician when he formed the legendary Cream with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in 1967. He had drummed with trad-jazz bands, working with Terry Lightfoot and Acker Bilk before sitting in with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and enlisting in the seminal Graham Bond Organisation. Following the unprecedented success and speedy demise of Cream, Baker joined with Steve Winwood, Ric Grech and Clapton in the ‘supergroup’ Blind Faith, followed by the ambitious Airforce. Baker then left Britain to live in Nigeria, where he cultivated an interest in African music and built his own recording studio (Paul McCartney’s classic Band On The Run was recorded there). He briefly had a Nigerian band, Salt, and recorded with Fela Kuti. Baker reputedly lost all his money on his Nigerian adventure, and returned to Britain and formed the Baker Gurvitz Army in 1973. Following the latter band’s break-up he spent much of the next few years playing polo, an unlikely sport for a working-class lad from south London, but one at which he became most proficient.

Baker’s solo outing, 11 Sides Of Baker, was justifiably panned in 1977. He returned with Energy in 1979 and briefly joined Atomic Rooster, Hawkwind and his own Ginger Baker’s Nutters. In 1986, he played on PiL’s UK Top 20 hit ‘Rise’, but has been unable to make any major impression as a rock artist and is openly bitter at the phenomenal success of Clapton. He remains, mostly through his work with Cream, one of Britain’s greatest rock legends; a temperamental man who at his best showed astonishing ability on drums. His rolling, polyrhythmic playing laid the future foundation for heavy rock drumming. In 1994, he joined with Jack Bruce and Gary Moore in BBM. The trio released an accomplished and satisfying album, although friction between the members led to an early parting of the ways.

Baker has since returned to his first love, jazz, recording some excellent material with Bill Frisell and Charlie Haden. Those who perceive Baker as the wild man of rock should investigate the excellent Falling Off The Roof (1996) and the follow-up, Coward Of The County (1999). In 2005, he reunited with Bruce and Clapton in Cream for a series of live shows at the Albert Hall, London, and Madison Square Garden, New York.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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