Ginger Baker was a virtuoso. An astounding rhythmic pioneer, his style was a mesh of jazz, African and world music, finished with a garnish of hard rock for good measure. His heydey is often thought of as the 1960s and ’70s, where he inspired droves of young people to learn the mysterious and complicated ways of the drum kit.
Memorable for his eccentric lifestyle, Baker’s playing was a stark reflection of his personality. Expressive and visceral, it encompassed pure style and blistering showmanship. He is also credited with pioneering the double kick drumming style that would become a hallmark of heavy metal in the years to come. Our favourite drummer’s favourite drummer, legends such as John Bonham, Neil Peart, Nick Mason and Stewart Copeland all list him as a major inspiration behind their unique styles.
Known to be a fiery figure, it was those closest to Baker who felt his wrath most. Notably, he and his son, Kofi Baker, had a fractured relationship, but luckily for both of them, the longstanding feud was resolved before Baker Sr.’s death in October 2019, when the former Cream man’s health was deteriorating.
During a 2019 interview with Rolling Stone, Kofi Baker explained all. At the time, he thought, “It’s kind of like he’s already dead. He’s disowned me so many times in my life. It’s like he’s been dead to me for a long time anyway.”
“I don’t know what went on the last 10, 15 years after the [Cream] reunion,” Kofi revealed. “I only saw him twice, 2005 and 2014, in the last, what, 17, 18 years or whatever it was. I emailed with him briefly. It was hard to talk to him on the phone because he was deaf, so it was kind of pointless.”
Kofi regarded his father with so much disdain that he would tell his girlfriend, “When he dies, I’m going to feel nothing.” However, things changed markedly, and he admitted: “I really didn’t think I’d feel anything. The asshole had to open up to me right before he died. I think if he’d stayed an asshole to me, maybe, it would be easier. But I didn’t think it would affect me the way it affected me.”
The younger Baker then turned his attention to the last interview he did with the publication, where he had nothing but harsh words for his father, when he said that “he fucks me off every time.” Showing just how greatly his opinion of his father had changed, Kofi accepted that his words might have hurt Ginger, and expressed remorse at using such severe language.
In September 2019, two months prior to Ginger Baker’s death at the start of October, Kofi thought, “‘Fuck it. I’m going to England. I’m just going to sit down with my dad, and I’m just going to tell him exactly how I feel because he’s getting old.’ I emailed him and, surprisingly enough, the email back was really nice: ‘Nice to hear from you.’ I was really looking forward to that meeting. And then, two and a half weeks ago [in mid-September], he went into the hospital. He just had this shutdown [of] everything, and everybody thought he was going to die. That was a week or maybe five days before I was meant to come out. They said, ‘You’d better get here.’”
Luckily for Kofi and Ginger, time was on their side. At that point, the alarm turned out to be a false one. Like when he fell off a roof in Colorado in the ‘90s, his hardy personality kept him trucking on for a little while longer.
Kofi got to the hospital on September 30th. He recalled: “He wasn’t out of his bed, but he was sitting up. He was blowing his nose, asking for tissues, drinking a bit of tea and dunking his biscuits in the tea. I sat quietly with him at first, then just thought, ‘What the fuck? I’ve got all this stuff I want to tell him.’ And I just started telling him about how I’m doing his music and I’m keeping his legacy going.”
Kofi told Ginger: “‘Hey, I’m learning ‘Blue Condition,’ and I’m doing your stuff.’ He taught me how to play, so the main thing was being able to tell him, ‘Dad, I’m carrying on. I’m keeping everything you taught me, all the secrets and everything. I’m going to keep it going as well as I can now.’ And he just smiled, and it was just amazing.” After that moment, Kofi and Ginger would be lost in conversation discussing all the wild things that Kofi was exposed to as a child by his father.
They were like old friends, reunited after a long time of not seeing each other. A brilliant way to close the book, we’re sure that Kofi counts his lucky stars that fate allowed him the time to patch things up with his iconic but flawed old man.
Listen to Cream ‘Blue Condition’ below.