The man who helped invent the rock trio and reluctantly became the genre’s first star drummer, during a multi-faceted and always eventful career, turns 76 today (August 19). We’re celebrating with a new playlist featuring Ginger Baker In 20 Songs.
uDiscover’s playlists are always a conversation-starter and a sampler of a musical lifetime that stretches far beyond, so do use the comments box to tell us which tracks are your favourites and why. Also let us know what you remember about Ginger’s 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 in his many other group and solo settings since.
Seminal, 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. Our first two tracks are from the recording of 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. Cream’s recordings, both in the studio and on the road, obviously play a huge part in our playlist, and we’ve chosen largely the album tracks on which he had starring roles, as drummer, singer, writer or narrator.
Then it’s on to Blind Faith and the extended ‘Do What You Like,’ his composition for their memorable, solitary album of 1969. Sadly, his work at the helm of Ginger Baker’s Air Force is not currently available on Spotify, but we reflect his widespread work schedule of the early 1970s with his appearance on Fela Kuti’s ‘Fela’s London Scene’ album, reflecting his undying love of African rhythms.
Back in a more conventional rock settting, there’s an example of his work with Adrian Gurvitz in Baker Gurvitz Army, from the self-titled debut album that made the UK top 30 in early 1975. From Baker’s solo LP catalogue, there’s a visit to 1986’s ‘Horses & Trees’ and then two reunions with his old Cream sparring partner Jack Bruce, on Jack’s 1992 album ‘Cities of the Heart’ and in their 1994 power trio configuration BBM, with Gary Moore.
From the historic Cream reunion shows at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005, there’s Ginger’s spoken-word revival of the ‘Wheels of Fire’ oddity ‘Pressed Rat and Warthog.’ The playlist concludes with the splendidly-titled ‘Ginger Spice,’ the opening track from ‘Why?’, Baker’s 2014 return to studio work in his own name. He plays at the Stables in Milton Keynes in the UK on August 30, and Nells Jazz & Blues in London on September 10.