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When I was a kid, Cream was part of the mystical rock world that I was just starting to get a taste of. Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were in my veins, but I didn’t know too much about this drummer named Ginger Baker, other than he played double bass and had a solo called “Toad” that was fairly percussive in its use of rolling tom fills and two badass kick drums.

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In middle school, I remember reading an article in DownBeat about a rock drummer challenging jazz drummers to battles. I thought, “This guy sounds pretty arrogant to go after the jazz world.” I didn’t pay much attention to him after that.

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Yeah. So much for middle school enlightenment.

In high school and some time beyond, I heard about Ginger Baker here and there, his work with Blind Faith, his own group Ginger Baker’s Air Force, but I never really listened to him. His trademark tom fills were unmistakable, but at the time, I was looking for blazing chops like what Billy Cobham was offering up.

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The closest I ever got to really paying attention to Ginger Baker’s music was noting that a girl I was dating when I was in my early 40’s looked remarkably like the redhead on the cover of a Blind Faith album.

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Again, so much for teenage, young adult and middle-aged enlightenment.

All that changed about a month ago. I was house sitting for a friend, just doing some cable channel surfing, when I came across Beware of Mr. Baker. I’d heard about it, and some of the highlights that I won’t spoil and reveal here, and I figured, what the hell…

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And now I am transformed.

Folks, if you want to get an education in how to be a fearless explorer with an unbridled passion for an instrument, watch Beware of Mr. Baker. Turn your phone off, and watch this soon. I had no idea how much of a jazz drummer Ginger Baker was, how much he was profoundly affected by African drumming, how much he worked to bring it into the mainstream, what kind of ups and downs this man has known.

I was incredibly inspired by his pursuits. Forget that he had an amazing knack for pissing people off. Forget his family life. Forget that his addictions are the stuff (sadly) of legends, but his passion… his fire… his love of every beat he plays… now that’s the stuff. Although, we can forget none of the above, because they all contributed to who he was, is, and what he created.

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If I say much more, I’ll surely spoil the viewing for you, so, I’ll keep this post short and to the point: there are simply too few human beings on the planet with the insane guts to go live life like it’s going out of style the way Ginger Baker has done, and at 74 (he just turned recently), he stands as a testament to… tenacity? No limits? Balls to the wall? Crazed endurance?

I don’t know. All I’m sure of is that every drummer who ever had a notion outside of the box needs to learn more about this man. Director Jay Bulger portrays Ginger Baker with as much realism and candor and I think anyone could, and it makes me wish that more drummers could be documented in such a way. For now, we have something to watch that reminds artists why it is some important to not just walk in line and follow everyone else’s footsteps. Worlds are discovered by going where others have not yet trod, which is a metaphor to be cherished every time we play.

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If you want to see how it’s really done, Beware of Mr. Baker will walk you down a fascinating road that the namesake’s traveler probably shouldn’t have survived as long as he has… but when a single name can evoke images of fearless percussive intent, you know the guy did something right, and quite a few times at that.

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