Arts & Culture
10:26 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Legendary Drummer and Bad Boy Ginger Baker is Still Making Music

Ginger Baker album cover for "Why?"

Ginger Baker talks with Bonnie North ahead of his Milwaukee concert.

When most people think of drummer Ginger Baker, they think of his work in Cream.

Cream, with Baker on drums, Eric Clapton on guitar, and Jack Bruce on bass, was the original rock and roll power trio. The band's sound was explosive and different from anything else going on at the time, and a large part of that sound was driven by Baker's drumming. Songs like Sunshine of Your Love, Crossroads, and White Room are still as fresh and exciting now as when they were released almost 50 years ago.

Baker had no limits on the drums - or in life. For a long time he lived the rock and roll life: he struggled with and eventually beat heroin addiction, he had many groupies and affairs, he had a notorious temper, he made and lost a number of fortunes.

But for all his rock and roll fame, fortune, and notoriety, Baker is and always has been – at heart – a jazz drummer. 

"That's what was happening when I started playing," Baker says. "It was traditional jazz what was going on in the UK."

And he hasn't stopped, even as ill health has made it harder for him to get around.  The 74-year-old just came out with his first album in 16 years, called Why?, and it's straight up jazz. The tour supporting it comes to Turner Hall Thursday night. 

Ahead of his Milwaukee concert, Baker talked with us about making music, what makes a good drummer, and how this group might be the best he's ever played with.

Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion

Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion is made up of Baker, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth, and African percussionist Abass Dodoo.