Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker was born in Lewisham, South London on 19 August 1939. Raised by his mother and aunt, he trained and competed as a racing cyclist as a teen, with hopes of turning professional. His first instrument was the trumpet but he would make his mark on the world as a drummer.
At age 16, he left home to tour with the Storyville Jazzmen. His reputation as a drummer grew and he played with a progression of bands including Acker Bilk, Terry Lightfoot, Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc. (where he replaced Charlie Watts on drums) and Graham Bond Organization (with Jack Bruce). While both men were in the Graham Bond Organization, they recorded one album, The Sound of ‘65.
Ginger Baker first joined forces with Eric Clapton in Cream. Along with bassist Jack Bruce, the power trio broke new musical ground. They became revered for their extended, improvisatory solos on their respective instruments. He composed several songs while in Cream, including “Toad”, which features only Ginger on his elaborate drum kit.
After Cream disbanded in late 1968, Baker formed Blind Faith with Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, and Rick Grech. Blind Faith folded after one album and a US Tour in 1969.
He then formed Ginger Baker’s Air Force and released two albums. The Air Force featured as many three permanent drummers at a time.
Ginger moved to Nigeria in 1971 and built West Africa’s first 16-track recording studio. In 1974, he formed Baker-Gurvitz Army, which played jazz-fueled rock. They disbanded in 1977.
In the 1980s, he moved to Italy’s Tuscany region where he set up a drum school and established a successful olive farming business. He also kicked a 21-year heroin addiction. He would continue to release recordings including Horses and Trees (1986), Middle Passage (1990), Going Back Home (1994) and Coward of the County (1999).
Ginger can be heard in an un-credited appearance on the Public Image Limited recording, Album. He released a few jazz-influenced solo albums and joined up with the Masters of Reality in 1991 for their album Sunrise Of The Sufferbus.
Ginger Baker joined Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce on stage in 1993 when Cream was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. They performed a few songs at the induction ceremony in Los Angeles.
At Jack Bruce’s 50th Birthday Party in 1993, Ginger jammed with Bruce and Gary Moore (of Thin Lizzy). This led to the formation of the group Baker-Bruce-Moore (BBM). They released one album, Around The Next Dream, in 1994.
Throughout the 1990s, Baker was based in Parker, Colorado (U.S.), where he also raised polo ponies. He moved to South Africa in April 1999, where he still resides. He is now a recognized expert on the sport of polo. Until 1999, he also toured and recorded with his jazz band, the Ginger Baker Trio.
Ginger Baker once again teamed up with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce for four Cream reunion concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 2, 3, 5 and 6 May 2005. Three additional concerts took place at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on 24, 25 and 26 October 2005. The London concerts were filmed and recorded and released on DVD and CD.
Ginger’s autobiography – Hellraiser – was published on 5 October 2009 (John Blake Publishing Ltd). For tour dates and updated information, visit http://gingerbaker.com
In early 2013, Ginger announced that he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from years of heavy smoking and chronic back pain from degenerative osteoarthritis. Three years later, he was diagnosed with serious heart issues and later underwent open heart surgery. In late September 2019, his family announced that he was critically ill in the hospital. He died at age 80 on 9 October 2019.
On 17 February 2020, Eric Clapton and the Baker Family held a tribute concert at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, London to celebrate Ginger’s life.