Ginger Baker: Tribute to a Drummer Extraordinaire

Ginger Baker drumming
Photograph: Dezo Hoffmann/Rex Features.

With the passing yesterday of Ginger Baker, one of the greatest drummers in history, we thought it was a good idea to pay some respect.

Baker: Maverick Drums

A drumming virtuoso who grew up to the sound of the Nazis bombing London, he would also batter his school table with his hands before even touching a kit.

When he did drum for the first time, he found himself naturally gifted for it all. Focussing on jazz and African rhythms, he quickly rose up the ranks to the Graham Bond Organisation (quite an obscure ‘60s rock band).

Viewing himself as the best drummer out there, and having revolutionised the instrument along with the likes of Keith Moon and John Bonham (whom he didn’t rate), he set up Cream.

Band members Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce certainly rated his abilities. But they were also pretty terrified of his mood swings, many of which were driven by Baker’s heroin addiction.

Cream was a superstar band and Baker’s drum solos like Toad proved the drums could be a leading instrument.

Baker’s limb independence helped him overcome a more slight presence than the heavy-set, monstrous grooves of Bonham.

But he was a jazz drummer above everything else. He went out of his way to challenge the best jazz drummers of his era to drum offs.

By winning the respect of the jazz community, he rose above the vast majority of his peers.

Meanwhile he organised Blind Faith’s incredibly brief trip into the world. And his drumming, again, is… yep. Genius.

Then his life went all over the place, including spells to Africa, Italy, America, and then back to England for his final years.

As a drummer, he was a genius. As a man… well, you can watch the excellent 2013 documentary Beware of Mr. Baker for some insights there.

A lovable rogue in his youth. Something of a darkly humourous, cantankerous sort in his senior years. Whatever you make of that, it’s his contributions to music that’ll keep his in the record books.

Drumming right up until his final years, and still bloody brilliant, his contributions to the drumming world were mighty.

6 comments

  1. He was amazing! Ginger, RIP!
    He played at the El Mocambo Tavern, in the 1990’s. It was just him. No cream. The El Mo was a dump made famous when the Rolling Stones showed up out of the blue one night and played.They made it famous, and the dump has lived off that legend ever since. It doesn’t seem make many money, but the powers that be won’t let it close.

    Liked by 1 person

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