“We’re happily co-existing in different continents. I’m in England, he’s in South Africa. I was thinking of asking him to move. He’s still a little too close.”~Jack Bruce
Back in the late 60’s-early 70’s, rock musicians started to die due to their addictions. Brian Jones, Jimi, Janis and Jim Morrison were among the early big names. Whenever asked who we thought would be next, two names always came up….Keith Richards and Ginger Baker. Man, did they fool us. Keith is thriving. Ginger lasted until yesterday when he died at age eighty.
There’s no question about his skill as a musician. Baker was a jazz drummer playing in rock bands. If there was a Mt. Rushmore for drummers, he’d be carved up on the mountain. His drum solos are legendary, but when I think of Ginger Baker, two songs come to mind, “Sunshine of Your Love” and White Room”, both by Cream. I can hear his drum parts without playing the music. The dude hit his drum kit so hard and firm that it overshadows the guitar, bass and vocals. They are brilliant pieces of work.
His relationship with Cream bassist Jack Bruce is a truth is stranger than fiction story. The twosome formed one of the greatest rhythm sections in music history. While their music was always in sync, their personal relationship was brutally bitter. Their fights were legendary. It was so bad that they would sabotage the others musical equipment to make the other look bad. You’d read quotes like the one at the top and shake your head because they would always find a way back to playing with each other. For Baker and Bruce, it had to be about the music.
Ginger Baker seemed to piss off everyone…and he didn’t care. He was married four times. His relationships with his children was fractured. Even the tributes at the news of his death, while praising his musicianship, you read words like wild and fiery…and you know those are toned down.
Steve Winwood said Baker had an “abrasive exterior” but also stated “I was lucky to play with him.” Winwood thought so much of him as a musician that after their first band “Blind Faith” broke up, he joined him in “Ginger Baker’s Airforce.” Apparently when the music is great and the musicians are so talented, you put up with a lot of bullshit.
Most of us mellow somewhat as we age….not Ginger Baker. Not even close. If you saw the film “Beware of Mr. Baker”, you met the same man in his seventies that he was in twenties. He lived life his way and didn’t care what anyone else thought of him….even the people who were closest to him. His way or the highway really does describe how Ginger Baker lived his life. Most people took the highway and that was fine with Ginger.
So, to Ginger Baker, you were a great musician, but not such a great guy. You were certainly your own man. Say hello to Jack and maybe tone down the fighting a bit. Thanks for music!
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