Home News Ginger Baker: ‘I came off heroin something like 29 times’

Ginger Baker: ‘I came off heroin something like 29 times’

From The Guardian:

In the 60s, when rock musicians bestrode the world like demigods, no one embodied the wildness of the job description more completely than Peter “Ginger” Baker. A jazz drummer by calling, Baker gained a reputation as the most uncontrollable musician on the scene – a cadaverous, red-headed giant with a reputation for belligerence, a heroin addict like his jazz heroes, a man with strings of girlfriends, a neglected wife, father of the rock drum solo and several children, and driver of a custom-built Jensen FF.

But Baker’s natural musicality on the kit was a match for any musician. Jimi Hendrix came to Britain to pay tribute to Cream, comprising Baker, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. With the addition of Steve Winwood and Ric Grech, Baker and Clapton formed the short-lived Blind Faith; then came Baker’s own Air Force, before he split for the home of the drum, west Africa, and into a musical partnership with the great Fela Kuti.

But after nearly four decades of wandering, from Hawaii to Jamaica, Italy to Colorado and South Africa to set up a polo school, the 73-year-old, Lewisham-born drummer – and the man once voted the rock star least likely to survive the 60s – is back in Britain and living in Kent. A recent tour of Japan with Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion left him hospitalised with a serious respiratory infection and he’s dogged by painful degenerative osteoarthiritis that has been aggravated by riding accidents. “I couldn’t breathe. For a moment I thought I was dying,” Baker, who is recuperating, told the Observer last week.

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