Peter Edward "Ginger" Baker (19 August 1939 – 6 October 2019) was an English drummer and a co-founder of the rock band Cream. His work in the 1960s and 1970s earned him the reputation of "rock's first superstar
drummer," for a style that melded jazz and African rhythms and pioneered both jazz fusion and world music.
Baker began playing drums at age 15, and later took lessons from English jazz drummer 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 lasted only until 1968,
in part due to Baker's and Bruce's volatile relationship. After briefly working with Clapton in Blind Faithand 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, Hawkwind, Atomic Rooster, Bill Laswell, jazz bassist Charlie
Haden, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and Ginger Baker's Energy.
Baker's drumming is regarded for its 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. Baker
was an inductee of the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Cream in 1993, of the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2008, and
of the Classic Drummer Hall of Fame in 2016. Baker was noted for his eccentric, often self-destructive lifestyle, and he struggled with heroin addiction for many years. He was married four times and fathered three children.
Peter Baker was born in Lewisham, South London; he was nicknamed "Ginger" for his shock of flaming red hair. His
mother, Ruby May (née Bayldon), worked in a tobacco shop; his father, Frederick Louvain Formidable Baker, was a bricklayer employed by his own father, who owned a building
business, and a lance
corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals in World War II;
he died in the 1943 Dodecanese campaign. Baker
attended Pope Street School, where he enjoyed being in the football team and was considered "one of the better players" and then, after he passed the Eleven-plus, at Shooter's Hill Grammar School. While at school he joined Squadron 56 of the Air
Training Corps, based at Woolwich and stayed with them for two or three years.
Baker began playing drums at about 15 years of age. In the early 1960s he took lessons from Phil
Seamen, one of the leading British jazz drummers of the post-war era.