Ginger Baker, who helped invent the rock trio and reluctantly became the genre’s first star drummer, during a multi-faceted and always eventful career, was born on August 19, 1939. Here we present a playlist featuring Ginger In 20 Songs. It includes his stellar work, in early days, with the Graham Bond Organisation, on into the groundbreaking Cream and another shining but short-lived project, Blind Faith, and his many later group and solo settings.
Undervalued R&B tastemaker Bond and his group, with Baker on drums and Jack Bruce on bass, regularly played the famous Klooks Kleek club at the Railway Hotel in Hampstead, London. “Early In The Morning” and “What’d I Say” are from their show there in October 1964, when Ginger was 25 years old and was already becoming a featured artist with his incredibly potent drumming style.
After some studio recordings with Bond and co, Baker joined Bruce and Eric Clapton in what would become known as rock’s first supergroup. Discussion of Cream’s recordings, both in the studio and on the road, often focuses on Eric and Jack, but many notable album tracks had Baker in starring roles, as drummer, singer, writer, or narrator.
Blind Faith’s extended “Do What You Like” was his composition for their memorable, solitary album of 1969. On its release, Steve Winwood told Rolling Stone: “You know, Ginger and Jack Bruce were the first people I saw when I originally came down to London. And I’ve always wanted to get together with Eric. I think he wanted to work with me too. Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time jamming together out in the country. But up until now, the time hadn’t been right for us to get together.”
Then the drummer helmed Ginger Baker’s Air Force, whose work of the early 1970s was collated on the 1978 album from PolyGram/Chronicles, Do What You Like. It featured all of the band’s first three albums, and several previously unreleased tracks. Baker’s widespread work schedule of the early 1970s also included his appearance on Fela Kuti’s Fela’s London Scene album, reflecting his undying love of African rhythms.
Back in a more conventional rock setting, he returned to “supergroup” territory with Adrian Gurvitz in Baker Gurvitz Army, with a self-titled debut album that made the UK Top 30 in early 1975. Baker’s solo LP catalog included albums for such labels as Polydor, Sire, and Atlantic as well as several indies. Then there were two reunions with his old Cream sparring partner Bruce, on Jack’s 1992 album Cities of the Heart and in their 1994 power trio configuration BBM, with Gary Moore.
At the historic Cream reunion shows at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005, Ginger gave a spoken-word revival of the Wheels of Fire oddity “Pressed Rat and Warthog.” Towards the end of his body of work, the splendidly-titled “Ginger Spice” was the opening track from Why?, Baker’s 2014 return to studio work in his own name.
Listen to uDiscover Music’s Ginger Baker Best Of playlist.