Peter, Edward “Ginger” Baker, co-founder of British supergroup, Cream passed away Sunday in London England at the age of 80. He had been suffering from progressive heart disease for some time and had endured open-heart surgery in 2016.
Along with guitarist Eric Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce, Baker launched Cream in 1966, with their debut album ‘Fresh Cream’ and they were lauded as rock’s first progressive rock band, cited as a supergroup in that Clapton joined the trio after stints with The Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers while Baker was a member of Graham Bond Organization and Bruce was recognized as one of music’s most innovative jazz/blues bass players.
Cream only recorded four albums during their initial brief stint from 1966 to November 1969 yet their third album, `Wheels Of Fire” became the first record ever to achieve double-platinum status (two million copies sold). Known for their elongated jam sessions (one track “Toad” sometimes ran 20 minutes long) and their combination of British psychedelic and American blues influences, Cream was doomed from the onset as Bruce and Baker did not get along on a personal level and this clash of personalities often flared up on stage with Baker accusing Bruce of turning up his bass amps to unacceptably high levels.
Despite achieving commercial success with tracks like “Strange Brew”, “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “White Room”, Cream broke up following a 22-date U.S tour which ended in November 1968 as the band released their fourth album, prophetically titled “Goodbye”
“We would just run away from one another,” explained Clapton. “We never socialized together and never really shared ideas anymore.” It also didn’t help that Ahmet Ertegun, president of the band’s U.S record label, Atlantic, was never comfortable with all three members singing lead vocals and always envisioned Clapton as the band’s frontman.
Clapton briefly formed another supergroup with Baker and Stevie Winwood in Blind Faith before moving on to play in Derek & The Dominoes and establish a successful solo career. Bruce (who died from liver cancer in 2014) went on to record a number of solo albums as well as briefly forming his own supergroup with guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing.
Baker had moved to Nigeria in 1971, where he set up a recording studio in which he promoted African musicians. He later moved to Los Angeles in 1980, recording briefly with Hawkwind and even appeared in the Nasty Boys television series as “Ginger”. He then recorded with heavy metal group, Masters Of Reality before rejoining Cream to perform at their Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction in New York in 1993.
Cream briefly reformed for four successful dates at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May 2005 and three problem-plagued dates at New York’s Madison Square Garden in October of that year. But despite several rumours to the contrary (including a scheduled 2007 appearance at Ertegun’s London Tribute Concert), Cream never performed together again.
By Keith Sharp