Ginger Baker, the drummer from Cream and Blind Faith, has died at the age of 80. The cantankerous drummer has been ill for a while, with his family announcing via his (unverified) twitter account on September 25 that “The Baker family are sad to announce that Ginger is critically ill in [the] hospital. Please keep him in your prayers tonight.”
Shortly afterward, they reported that he was “holding his own,” but earlier this morning (October 6) they tweeted that he has died: “We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully in hospital this morning. Thank you to everyone for your kind words over the past weeks.”
One of the greatest drummers in rock history, he was also one of the most difficult. In the documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, former Police drummer Stewart Copeland says, “Ginger Baker is a motherf—–, that’s it! He, personally, is what drums are all about!” Simon Kirke of Free and Bad Company famously said in the documentary, “He influenced me as a drummer, but not as a person.” While many other musicians, associates and family members describe how problematic he was, his Cream and Blind Faith bandmate Eric Clapton described him thusly: “He was a rogue, he was a loveable rogue.” Elsewhere in the doc, when director Jay Bulger mentions Baker along with John Bonham and Keith Moon as great drummers of the era, Clapton dismisses the idea, saying that those other drummers weren’t in Baker’s league.
The documentary is essential viewing for fans of Baker or his previous bands, and gives an unblinking look into his effect on the people in his life — interviewing his ex-wives, his kids, and his former Cream bandmate Jack Bruce, whom Baker always had a difficult relationship with, but also several legendary drummers, including Neil Peart, Lars Ulrich and Charlie Watts, who spoke of his incredible skills and influence.