They say he is the original creator of the drum solo in rock and so far the opposite has not been proven. But Ginger Baker (born in London, England, in 1939, and died this October 6, 2019) was much more than a powerful drummer and his versatility exceeds his insane feats behind the drums and saucers.
With Jack Bruce at his side since the years of Blues Incorporated (1961-1962), The Graham Bond Organization (1963-1965) and finally, most memorable, Cream (1966-1968), was one of the most impressive rhythmic sections in The history of the genre. However, there is also his background as a fine jazz percussionist.
He was also a member of the supergroup Blind Faith (alongside Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Ric Grech) and Hawkind, in addition to his own projects (Ginger Baker’s Air Force and Ginger Baker’s Air Force 2), which were musically remarkable, although not so successful, and the same can be said of his numerous albums as a soloist.
Nicknamed “Ginger” since childhood, for his red hair (his real name was Peter Edward Baker), the musician was a living legend until his recent death, at 80 years old.
As a tribute, here are a dozen themes that portray what was his long six-decade career on drums.
1.- “Up Town”. Blues Incorporated. A sample of what the first group played in which Baker participated, led by the legendary English guitarist Alexis Korner, with Cyril Davies on the harmonica, Dick Heckstall-Smith on the tenor sax, Johnny Parker on the piano, Jack Bruce on the double bass and, of course, Ginger Baker on drums. Pure and greasy blues at best.
2.- “Hoochie Coochie Man”. The Graham Bond Organization. Another blues band, with Jack Bruce always by his side. The recording is not good, but it gives a good idea of what the British bluesera scene was in the mid-sixties of the last century. Here, with this version of the classic Willie Dixon.
3.- “Toad”. Cream From the dark and underground scene of the blues in London, Ginger Baker suddenly reached the big leagues of rock with the first supergroup in history, next to Eric Clapton and, of course, Jack Bruce. “Toad”, from his first album, Fresh Cream (1966), is a clear example of the talent of the tremendous redhead, with his first solo studio shot.
4.- “Strange Brew”. Cream With their second album, the classic Disraeli Gears (1967), the trio reached its highest point and a great popularity success, thanks to its well-known track “Sunshine of Your Love”. However, this “strange concoction” is not far behind in quality and finesse. Here is a version in the popular German program Beat Club that in Mexico came to be transmitted, although very outdated at times, on Channel 11. The playback is evident.
5.- “White Room”. Cream By 1968, the year his third album, Wheels of Fire , was released , the tensions within the group were too strong and the long friendship between Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker threatened to burst into pieces. It is an irregular work, although it contains one of Cream’s flagship compositions: the great “White Room”, revitalized by the way in the soundtrack of the more than current Joker movie . Baker’s drummer shines here fully.
6. “Crossroads.” Cream Taken from the “Farewell Concert”, filmed by the BBC in 1969 and a real culmination of the existence of Cream, which had just recorded its fourth and final album, Goodbye Cream , made by commitment to the label, more than for the pleasure of its members. This version of Robert Johnson’s classic “Crossroads” is a clear and representative sample of the power of the trio – and therefore Baker – in his presentations.
7.- “Do What You Like”. Blind Faith At the end of Cream, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker decided to continue together and next to the genius of Steve Winwood (voice and keyboards) and the solidity of Ric Grech’s bass, from the Family group, formed in 1969 Blind Faith, ephemeral project that bore fruit in a single self-titled album of enormous reach. The great “Do What You Like” was written by Baker himself. This is a jazz rock with a hint of Dave Brubeck (the rhythm is practically identical to “Take 5”), with an amazing solo of the great Ginger. A wonder that does not lose its validity 50 years after being recorded.
8.- “Tell Me a Story (Toady)”. Ginger Baker’s Air Force. In 1970, Baker decided to form his own project and thus his Air Force was born, a band with the same influences of jazz as of African music (the drummer would put a recording studio in Nigeria a little later and become close friends with Fela Kuti ). Here is a sample of this dizzying Air Force.
9.- “Why?” Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion. In 2014, at 75 years of age, the musician returned to pure jazz and formed a rhythmic and percussive quartet. This is one of his latest performances, since in February 2016, suffering from serious heart problems, he had to leave the stage. Three years later, just twelve days ago, he also had to leave the world.
10.- “Pressed Rat And Warthog”. Cream The supergroup met in May 2005 at the Royal Albert Hall in London, to perform an extraordinary concert in which it included this piece, originally belonging to the Wheels of Fire album and in which it is Ginger Baker himself who is in charge of the solo voice, practically spoken, with which he tells a strange fantastic story. An unusual and very little known theme with which we dismiss this huge universal musician.