Youtube’s algorithms are starting to get really good at picking out content that is unknown to me, but that I really will appreciate. A week or two ago, they recommended the 2012 award-winning (Grand Jury Prize at South by Southwest) documentary Beware of Mr. Baker.
How right they were.
The event occasioning their suggestion was the passing of Ginger Baker on October 6th of this year at the age of age of 80. He is best known as the drummer for Cream, the (arguably) first rock ‘n’ roll “supergroup.” In that role, he was considered one of rock’s greatest drummers, a pioneer, innovator, and role model for rock musicians to follow. His caustic personality and heroin addiction meant he made and lost several fortunes in a career in bands whose lifetimes measured in months rather than years.
He was originally a jazz drummer and possibly considered himself as such throughout his career. He was fascinated with the complex rhythms of African drumming and brought that style to American and European rock. In an ad he took out (in L.A.’s Music Connection) looking for work in the late 1980’s, he described himself as being “[a]cknowledged worldwide as the top DRUMMER ALIVE!” Maybe so.
I am reminded, watching this summary of his life, about the current fashion for rejecting artists who have committed crimes, moral transgressions, or political-correctness heresy. This film reminds me that requiring that good art also come from good artists limits the supply of good art, which would seem to be a net loss to our culture. Ginger Baker was kind of an awful person. He was an incredible musician.
Mr. Baker [likes to exemplify his life’s experiences in music]. If that makes him an unpleasant person socially, well, that’s exactly what is required for the music from him to be so superb. And I cannot question anyone with end results that perfect.
Johnny Rotten, who worked with Baker on the PiL album, Album.