Ginger Baker, who helped redefine the role of the drums in rock and became a superstar in the process, died today Sunday, October 6th, 2019 in a hospital in southeastern England. He was 80 years old.
The volatile and propulsive British musician 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. Mr. Baker drew worldwide attention for his approach to the drums, as sophisticated as it was forceful, when he teamed with the guitarist Eric Clapton and the bassist Jack Bruce in the hugely successful British band Cream in 1966. Baker brought a new level of artistry to his instrument, and he was the first rock drummer to be prominently featured as a soloist and to become a star in his own right. Eric Clapton praised him as “a fully formed musician” whose “musical capabilities are the full spectrum.”
After previously announcing that he was critically ill and asking fans to “please keep him in your prayers,” his family said Ginger “passed away peacefully”.”He was in no pain and had recently been able to see and speak to his children, close family and special friends,” his daughter Nettie Baker told CNN in a statement.
Baker had experienced a number of health issues in recent years. In 2016, he underwent open heart surgery, which forced him to cancel a run of tour dates. During recovery, a fall also left him with swollen legs and feet. In 2013, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and he is also said to be suffering from chronic back pain as a result of degenerative osteoarthritis.
While Rolling Stone magazine once ranked him the third-greatest rock drummer of all time, behind Keith Moon and John 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.
When interviewed in 2013 on the BBC Television program “Newsnight,” and asked how he would like to be remembered, he paused for a moment and then gave a one-word answer: “Drummer.”
And that’s exactly how the world will remember him. RIP Ginger.