Five reasons why Ginger Baker is a drum legend
Ok, let’s grab the elephant in the room right from the off, we know that Ginger Baker is perhaps the single most divisive figure in drumming.
Thanks to his acid tongue, Baker has upset everyone from A-list band mates to a slew of ex-wives over the years, but while his attitude many deter some, there is no denying that this guy really can play. So, here we present our five reasons why Ginger Baker is an absolute drum legend.
He's still going strong
On Saturday 3 May Baker celebrates his 75th birthday (a landmark that actually doesn't roll around until August) with a special London show.
It’s an honour that Baker richly deserves, anyone that can still cut it behind the kit at the grand old age of 75 can’t be begrudged a pat on the back in our book. He’s still going strong with his band Jazz Confusion and shows little sign of slipping away into retirement just yet.
He can still shock us
You might think that after all these years in the spotlight that you know Ginger pretty well, but he still has a surprise or two up his sleeve.
In our 2012 interview with him, he gave us a bit of a shock when he said: “I don’t listen to music very much at all, unless it is Kelly Rowland. She’s fantastic. Ciara is another one that’s really cool. Kelly’s voice, though – she’s like the next Whitney Houston. her voice is like a bell, it’s absolutely round, it’s wonderful. that’s what appeals to me."
He loves the jazz greats
Ginger doesn’t hate everyone, you know. No, there’s quite a few drummers that he ruddy well loves.
On being asked to pick out his career highlights, Ginger told us: “Playing with Phil [Seaman], playing with Elvin Jones, playing with Art Blakey and playing with Max Roach. All of them became very close friends of mine.
“There’s a great thing I did with Art Blakey in 1972, it was completely unrehearsed. It started off as a drum battle and ended up with us both going on to play exactly the same thing at exactly the same time and it just took off. We played together through to the end, complementing each other. It was a great experience. Max is just wonderful.”
He helped invent heavy metal
We’d get a major telling off (that’s putting it lightly) from Ginger for saying this, but, and as much as he protests otherwise, his playing with Cream most certainly helped inspire a generation of heavy metal drummers.
Of course, when we put this to Ginger back in our June 2012 issue, he was typically forthright in his response, saying: “The heavy metal thing, giving birth to that, we should have aborted it. We should have aborted that kid. I hate heavy metal.”
He doesn't take any crap from his bandmates
Few drummers are shy types that sit at the back and blend into the furniture, but even so, Ginger is something else.
Basically, if you’re in a band with Ginger, you can expect an ear bashing before too long, he just will not let the drummer get an unfair ride. And if that means upsetting Eric Clapton and curtailing a planned Cream reunion (as he reportedly recently has) then so be it. He has some sage words for Jack Bruce at around four minutes into the clip below.