Ginger Baker, the volatile and propulsive British musician best known for his time with the power trio Cream, died Sunday at age 80, reports the AP. Baker wielded his blues power and jazz technique to help break open popular music and become one of the world's most admired and feared musicians. With blazing eyes, orange-red hair, and a temperament to match, the London native ranked with The Who's Keith Moon and Led Zeppelin's John Bonham as the embodiment of musical and personal fury. Using twin bass drums, Baker fashioned a pounding, poly-rhythmic style uncommonly swift and heavy that inspired and intimidated countless musicians. But every beat seemed to mirror an offstage eruption—whether his violent dislike of Cream bandmate Jack Bruce or his on-camera assault of a documentary maker, Jay Bulger, whom he smashed in the nose with his walking stick.
Baker and his many admirers saw him as a rounded, sophisticated musician—an arranger, composer, and student of the craft, absorbing sounds from around the world. "He was so unique and had such a distinctive personality," Stewart Copeland of the Police said in 2013. "Nobody else followed in his footsteps. Everybody tried to be John Bonham ... but it's rare that you hear anybody doing the Ginger Baker thing." Baker teamed with Eric Clapton and Bruce in the mid-1960s to become Cream—one of the first supergroups and first power trios. The band broke up in 1968. He endured his old enemy, Bruce, when Cream was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and for Cream reunion concerts a decade later. Baker performed regularly in his 70s despite health issues. No stranger to vice and not a fan of modesty, he called his memoir Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Drummer. "John Bonham once made a statement that there were only two drummers in British rock 'n' roll; himself and Ginger Baker," Baker wrote. "My reaction to this was, 'You cheeky little bastard!'"
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