Cream Drummer Ginger Baker Dead at 80

Pioneering drummer Ginger Baker, best known for his role in the late ’60s supergroup Cream died Sunday in England at the age of 80.

Baker’s Facebook account published the following message Sunday morning:

We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully this morning. Thank you to everyone for your kind words to us all over the past weeks.

Posted by Ginger Baker on Sunday, October 6, 2019

Baker’s style influenced many heavy metal drummers much to his dismay. The notoriously cantankerous drummer, in a 2015 Forbes interview, when asked about his influence on the metal genre, had this to say:

I find it incredibly repulsive, always have. I’ve seen where Cream is sort of held responsible for the birth of heavy metal. Well, I would definitely go for aborting [laughs]. I loathe and detest heavy metal. I think it is an abortion. A lot of these guys come up and say, “Man, you were my influence, the way you thrashed the drums.” They don’t seem to understand I was thrashing in order to hear what I was playing. It was anger, not enjoyment – and painful. I suffered on stage because of that [high amplifier] volume crap. I didn’t like it then, and like it even less now. 

Nevertheless, Baker’s heavy-handed, double-bass style of drumming influenced scores of drummers that came after him. Cream was formed from the ashes of Baker and Jack Bruce’s band, the Graham Bond Organization. Eric Clapton had left The Yardbirds in 1966 and suggested forming a power trio to Baker, including Bruce in the equation. The often volatile relationship between Baker and Bruce led to the demise of several of their early bands, including Cream, which lasted only two years.

In those two years, Cream released four albums that produced such influential singles as “White Room,” “Tales of Brave Ulysses, ” “Sunshine of Your Love,” and “Badge.”

Following the dissolution of Cream, Clapton and Baker recruited Steve Winwood and Ric Grech to form Blind Faith. The short-lived band produced one self-titled album before calling it quits. Clapton went on to perform with Delaney and Bonnie and Derek and the Dominoes, while Winwood and Grech returned to Traffic. Baker moved to Nigeria, performing with legendary Afrobeat composer Fela Kuti.

Blind Faith’s first live performance at London’s Hyde Park in 1969

Baker spent much of the later ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s performing with a number of bands to help pay the bills. One of these bands was Syracuse-based Masters of Reality, a King Crimson and Black Sabbath-inspired band. He joined the group for their Sunrise on the Sufferbus album in 1993. They charted with the single “She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On).”

Baker, who famously rejected being called a rock drummer, returned to his jazz roots in the mid-’90s, forming the Ginger Baker Trio with jazz legends, guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Charlie Haden.

In 2005 he reunited with his Cream bandmates for a series of concerts in London and New York, the former is chronicled on the album, Royal Albert Hall London May 2, 3, 5, 6, 2005.

Cream was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Baker’s health had been deteriorating in recent years, falling victim to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, degenerative osteoarthritis and heart issues, eventually taking him off the road.

Artists worldwide from Flea to Paul McCartney have been paying tribute to the legendary drummer on social media.