Ginger Baker, drummer and co-founder of Cream, dies age 80

Musician was noted for his groundbreaking drumming technique and showmanship

Ginger Baker performs during a reunion of Cream, at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2005. Photograph: Steve Pope/EPA

Ginger Baker performs during a reunion of Cream, at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2005. Photograph: Steve Pope/EPA

 

Renowned rock drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80.

The revered percussionist founded influential band Cream with Eric Clapton, forging global sales success and a lasting musical legacy.

His daughter confirmed on Sunday that the veteran rocker had died.

The family had announced on September 25th that the London-born drummer was critically ill in hospital, adding that he was “holding his own”.

Nettie Baker said her father died peacefully and without pain.

The musician was noted for his groundbreaking drumming technique, and his showmanship.

Pioneering rock music in the 1960s, he maintained a jazz style and sound, helping build the unique profile of his band Cream, founded with Clapton in 1966.

The group, which also included Jack Bruce, drove a change in rock music which would heavily influence the likes of Led Zeppelin and later artists.

Baker also experimented with percussion from across the globe, and held a long-time interest in African music.

Raising the profile

The drummer is an inductee in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for his work with Cream, a band which derived its name from the “cream of the crop” status of Baker and Clapton, who were known for their virtuosity.

This skill would be on display in rampant solos performed by Baker, who raised the profile of drummers in rock music.

The band earned a devoted following, and released classic rock tracks like Sunshine Of Your Love, Strange Brew, and the Blues-influenced Crossroads.

In his self-assessment, Hellraiser: The Autobiography Of The World’s Greatest Drummer, Baker chronicled his long-lasting drug habits, which included heroin and cocaine.

After Cream came the short-lived Blind Faith, working again with Clapton, along with Steve Winwood.

From left to right: bassist Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton of Cream performing in a reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London in May, 2005. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA
From left to right: bassist Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton of Cream performing in a reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London in May, 2005. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Heart complications

Unconventionally, the drummer then moved to Lagos to pursue an interest in African music, working with jazz powerhouse Fela Kuti.

He was known to be confrontational, a personality trait captured in the documentary Beware Of Mr Baker, which showed him fighting with the film’s director.

His manner did not prevent him reuniting with old friend Clapton in 2005, although further reunions were ruled out due to disagreement between Bruce and Baker after the drummer became “Mr Hyde”, according to his former bandmate. Bruce died in 2014.

Baker suffered heart complaints in later life, writing on his personal blog in 2016: “Just seen doctor . . . big shock . . . no more gigs for this old drummer . . . everything is off . . . of all things I never thought it would be my heart.” – PA