Brilliant but wild and dangerous - Ginger Baker dies aged 80

Brilliant but wild and dangerous - Ginger Baker dies aged 80

As the founding generation of rock ‘n’ roll pioneers thins out, obituarists reflect, often through hazy memories, on artists all but forgotten except by their ageing peers. 

Very few of them can be described as having single-handedly laid the foundations for a genre and sown the seeds for another.

Ginger Baker, who has died aged 80, can be so described. 

He was brilliant, versatile, dangerously volatile but he expanded the role of the rock drummer from a functionary to star attraction. 

The drumkit may stand behind other performers but Baker’s tenacity and talent, vision too, pushed it to the very frontline of contemporary music. It is more than half a century since he, with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton, came together as Cream. 

That band helped define the psychedelic rock sound of the 1960s while Baker’s innovative drum solos and a hard-hitting style, using two bass drums, hinted at what heavy metal might become.

Whether Barker’s virtuosity helped those who worked with him tolerate his relentless abrasiveness only they can tell. 

How Baker’s children regard his unorthodox parenting only they can tell. He once gave his 15-year-old son cocaine before a concert they were to give and before he fled with the fee leaving the teenager stranded. 

When he lived in South Africa he upset the local all-white polo club by importing a team of black Nigerians. 

In Baker’s case the cliche “he was a mould-breaker” is unquestionable.

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