Guitarists pay tribute to iconic Cream and Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker

(Image credit: Colin Fuller/Redferns)

Legendary drummer Ginger Baker passed away on October 6 at the age of 80, and ever since tributes have been pouring in for the iconic and influential musician.

Baker was best known for powering British blues rock legends Cream alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in the late 1960s, and also played with Clapton and Steve Winwood in the supergroup Blind Faith, as well as with artists ranging from Public Image Limited and Hawkwind to Fela Kuti and Max Roach.

Among the many peers who praised Baker’s life and career were plenty of guitarists, including Queen’s Brian May, who wrote in part on Instagram, “RIP Ginger Baker – who thrilled us all with his massively innovative drumming in Cream. When I advertised on my (Imperial) College notice board for a drummer to form a group with (1969, I think), I put “‘Wanted : a drummer who can play like Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker.... ‘ Guess who replied ?? A certain Mr. Taylor.”

While they're not primarily known as guitarists, former band mate Steve Winwood and musical peer Paul McCartney also had words for Baker, with the latter writing on Twitter, “Ginger Baker, great drummer, wild and lovely guy. We worked together on the Band on the Run album in his ARC Studio, Lagos, Nigeria. Sad to hear that he died but the memories never will. X Paul”

Winwood, meanwhile, wrote on his official website: “I was lucky to play with him in Ginger Baker’s Air Force, and to meet and work with such luminaries as Phil Seamen, Harold McNair and Graham Bond. And also in Blind Faith with Eric Clapton and Rick Grech. Although his appointment was very unorthodox (he showed up on the doorstep and said, 'Here I am') – he made a great contribution to the Blind Faith album which has withstood the test of time." 

Additional tributes came in from Testament's Alex Skolnick, who posted: “Farewell to one of the most innovative drummers in rock, strong influence of Afrobeat & jazz (friend of Fela Kuti & Elvin Jones respectively) & one of rock’s biggest 'characters' (admittedly difficult persona) RIP.”

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E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt wrote: “RIP Ginger Baker. One of the greatest drummers of all time. Begin with Cream’s Disraeli Gears.”

Kinks co-founder Dave Davies tweeted: “Ginger Baker was a great and unique musician and an innovator as well – he will be sorely missed – I met him many years ago in the old days and saw him a couple years ago in New York and he still sounded great. He always had nice things to say about the Kinks. I feel bad but he had a good run."

Former Whitesnake man Bernie Marsden also had words for Baker, writing, "Sad to hear of the passing of this legend. I was always first and foremost a fan of Cream & so getting to record and play live with Ginger Baker is a very big part of my pro career. Ginger could be difficult, sure, but he was truly unique behind that drum kit. R.I.P Ginger."

To get a taste of the man in action, check out this clip of Baker bashing through Toad at London's Royal Albert Hall, from Cream's farewell concert on November 26, 1968. 

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.