Ginger Baker, the decorated British rock and roll drummer, has died at the age of 80. Baker’s passing was confirmed by his camp via a Facebook post early Saturday 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 over the past weeks,” the message notes.
Ginger Baker’s camp had originally notified fans on September 25th that the iconic drummer was “critically ill” and receiving treatment in the hospital. The prognosis seemed more positive when Ginger’s account posted an update on September 29th noting that he was “holding his own” and “receiving visits from close family & very special friends.”
Ginger Baker, perhaps best known for his work with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in Cream, earned the reputation of “rock’s first superstar drummer” for his various work during the 1960s. With a unique playing style that fused his jazz background with African rhythms, he is frequently credited with being a drumming pioneer in genres like world music and jazz fusion.
Baker began playing drums as a teenager and joined Blues Incorporated in his 20s, where he met Jack Bruce. While Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce notable clashed frequently, they would go on to be bandmates in multiple beloved acts including the Graham Bond Organisation and—along with guitarist Eric Clapton— Cream, so named because its members were each the “cream of the crop” on their respective instrument in the British music scene. Cream is widely considered to be the first rock and roll “supergroup”
Cream went on to sell millions of records and achieve lasting global acclaim, though the band would only last until 1968, in large part due to the volatile relationship between Baker and Bruce. The following year, Clapton began jamming with Steve Winwood, who was fresh off a split with his own successful band, Traffic. Baker and Ric Grech eventually joined the fold and a new supergroup, Blind Faith, was born. While they played to massive crowds and their debut self-titled LP was eventually certified Platinum by the RIAA, the band split after a single tour.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Ginger started his own band, Ginger Baker’s Air Force. He later spent several years living in Africa, where he recorded and worked with renowned Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, composer, and Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with his Cream bandmates in 1993. In 2016, Rolling Stone ranked Baker at #3 on their list of the “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.”
Get a taste of Ginger Baker’s prodigious abilities and enthralling showmanship behind the drum kit below with this live video of “Toad” from Cream’s farewell concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall on November 26th, 1968 below:
Cream – “Toad” – 11/26/68
Rest in peace, Ginger Baker. Thank you for your monumental contributions to rock and roll. You will be missed.