Baker, Ginger

  • Birth name: Peter Edward Baker
  • AKA: Ginger Baker
  • Born: August 19, 1939 Lewisham, South London, England
  • Genres: Afrobeat, rock, blues, jazz
  • Occupation: Musician, songwriter
  • Instruments: Drums, percussion, vocals
  • Years Active: 1954-present
  • Labels: Polydor, Warner Bros., Island, Atco, Atlantic, Capitol, Elektra/Virgin, CMP Records
  • Associated Acts: Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation, Cream, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, Blind Faith, Ginger Baker and Friends, Baker Gurvitz Army, Fela Kuti, Hawkwind, Public Image Ltd., Atomic Rooster, Masters of Reality, Bruce-Baker-Moore, Ginger Baker Trio
  • Influences: Phil Seamen, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones and Baby Dodds
  • On the Web:, Facebook


Ginger Baker is an English drummer who is best known as the founder of the rock band Cream. His work in the 1960s earned him praise as “rock’s first superstar drummer”, although his individual style was a blend of jazz and African rhythms. An inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Cream, Ginger Baker is widely considered one of the most influential drummers of all time. He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2008, and into the Classic Drummer Hall of Fame in 2016. Baker is credited as a pioneer of drumming in genres like jazz fusion, heavy metal and world music.

Early Career

Ginger began playing drums at age 15 and later took lessons from Phil Seamen. In the 1960s, he joined Blues Incorporated, where he met bassist Jack Bruce. The two clashed often, but would be rhythm section partners again in the Graham Bond Organisation and Cream, the latter of which Baker co-founded with Eric Clapton in 1966. Cream achieved worldwide success but only lasted until 1968, in part due to Baker’s and Bruce’s volatile relationship.

After briefly working with Clapton in Blind Faith and leading Ginger Baker’s Air Force, Baker spent several years in the 1970s living and recording in Africa, often with Fela Kuti, in pursuit of his long-time interest in African music. Among Baker’s other collaborations are his work with Gary Moore, Masters of Reality, Public Image Ltd, Atomic Rooster, Bill Laswell, jazz bassist Charlie Haden, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and another personally led effort, Ginger Baker’s Energy.

Baker’s drumming attracted attention for his style, showmanship, and use of two bass drums instead of the conventional one. In his early days, he performed lengthy drum solos, most notably in the Cream song “Toad“, one of the earliest recorded examples in rock music.

In the 2000s

Cream Reunion 2005 – Royal Albert Hall London

On May 3, 2005, Baker reunited with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce for a series of Cream concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden. The London concerts were recorded and released as Royal Albert Hall London May 2–3–5–6 2005 (2005).

In a Rolling Stone article written in 2009, Bruce is quoted as saying: “It’s a knife-edge thing between me and Ginger. Nowadays, we’re happily co-existing in different continents [Bruce, who died in 2014, lived in Britain, Baker in South Africa] … although I was thinking of asking him to move. He’s still a bit too close”.

Baker’s autobiography Hellraiser was published in 2009.

Throughout 2013 and 2014, Baker toured with the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion, a quartet comprising Baker, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and percussionist Abass Dodoo.

In 2014, Baker signed with record label Motéma Music to release a new jazz album. The album, Why?, was released in May 2014 and featured the aforementioned quartet.

In February 2016, Baker announced he had been diagnosed with “serious heart issues” and cancelled all future gigs until further notice. Writing on his blog, he said, “Just seen doctor… big shock… no more gigs for this old drummer… everything is off… of all things I never thought it would be my heart…” Little is known about Baker’s sudden and serious illness. In late March 2016, it was revealed that Baker is now set for pioneering treatment after explaining: “There are two options for surgery and, depending on how strong my old lungs are, they may do both.” He added: “Cardiologist is brilliant. Yesterday he inserted a tube into the artery at my right wrist and fed it all the way to my heart – quite an experience. He was taking pictures of my heart from inside – amazing technology… He says he’s going to get me playing again! Thanks all for your support.” The heart operation was done in July 2016 with Baker reported to be on the road to recovery.