Cream drummer and co-founder Ginger Baker is critically ill in hospital

(Image credit: David Redfern/Redferns via Getty Images)

Ginger Baker, the brilliant and mercurial drummer and co-founder of Cream, is critically ill in hospital.

His family shared the news via twitter yesterday evening, 25 September. There are no further details as to his condition, but Baker, who turned 80 last month, has had a series of health problems in recent years, suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and osteoarthritis. In July 2016 he underwent open heart surgery; he also took a bad fall.

But such is Baker's pugilistic character, his legend, these seemed but trifles, and the Baker family's tweet was initially met with disbelief.

Baker has amassed a formidable legacy. His early years were grounded in jazz, learning under Phil Seamen and playing in The Graham Bond Organisation alongside Jack Bruce. Baker, Bruce and Eric Clapton formed Cream with in 1966, with Baker's protean style underpinning the band's power.

Two years later it was all over. Baker and Clapton formed Blind Faith alongside bassist Ric Grech from Family and Traffic's Steve Winwood on keyboards and vocals. One self-titled album later and Blind Faith was over. 

Volatility is forever a constant with Baker. A superstar drummer and fiery, restless talent, he sought out new projects. There was jazz-fusion with Ginger Bakers Air Force. He also opened a studio in Lagos, Nigeria, travelled across Africa, and incorporated the continent's rhythms into his playing.

He has collaborated with Fela Kuti, brought Afrobeat into the rock in the mid-'70s with Baker Gurvitz Army. In 2005, Cream reunited for a series of shows at New York's Madison Square Garden and London's Albert Hall.

Baker, meanwhile, kept on playing, touring with his Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion quartet as recently as 2015. 

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.