R.I.P. Ginger Baker

We’ve just heard of Ginger Baker’s passing. In his memory we re-post my November 2012 review of the rockumentary Beware of Mr. Baker.

Tonight Film Forum launches the US premiere of Jay Bulger’s Beware of Mr. Baker, which receives a national release January 25. The film is a sad, hilarious, sometimes tender, sometimes frightening visit with Cream’s Ginger Baker, the legendary scarlet-maned, hell-raising drummer—a rock ‘n’ roll monster if ever there was one. This no-holds-barred portrait of the man referred to as rock’s first great drummer (and perhaps still its best) lets him tell his own story, intercut with footage of his continent-hopping life, from London to L.A., Nigeria, Italy, South Africa, and (way) beyond.  Baker may have broken the mold musically, but his violent, dyspeptic mood swings, fueled by a multi-decade heroin addiction, went a long way to making him persona non grata even among the music greats who still revere his work. Eric Clapton, John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols), Charlie Watts (of the Rolling Stones), and Stewart Copeland (of The Police),  Baker’s four wives, and three grown children all have something to say about him: “He’s a force of nature,” “he’s the greatest drummer any of us had ever heard,” “he’s mad,” and “he’s fairly consistently horrible” are just a few of them. The film is a winner of the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2012 South By Southwest Film Festival. Well worth a watch.

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