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Legendary Cream Drummer Ginger Baker Dead At 80

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Cream drummer Ginger Baker, who was struggling with failing health after falling "critically ill" last month, died at the age of 80 on Sunday in a hospital in southeastern England, his family confirmed.

"We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully this morning," reads a brief statement on his Facebook and Twitter pages. "Thank you to everyone for your kind words to us all over the past weeks."

Baker is survived by his wife, Kudzai Baker, a nurse from Zimbabwe with whom he lived in Kent, England, and three children: Nettie Baker, Leda Baker and Kofi Baker. All were born in the 1960s during Mr. Baker's first marriage to Liz Finch.

Born Peter Baker on August 19, 1939, he was more interested in sports than music before he started playing drums at age 15. He then started taking lessons from Phil Seamen, one of England's most respected jazz players.

Baker's first band was Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, where he met Jack Bruce, with whom he later formed Cream. After Eric Clapton joined them, they made four albums together, 1966's Fresh Cream, 1967's Disraeli Gears, 1968's Wheels of Fire and 1969's Goodbye before Clapton left the band.

Clapton praised Baker as "a fully formed musician" whose "musical capabilities are the full spectrum."

Songs like "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room" hit the top of the singles chart and made Cream one of the period's biggest bands.

Baker then went on to form Blind Faith and Ginger Baker's Air Force before moving on to South Africa. He preferred to be called a jazz player rather than a rock 'n' roll drummer.

During the final two decades of his career, Baker joined Masters of Reality for an album, formed the Ginger Baker Trio and joined Cream for a series of reunion shows.

He wrote an autobiography and was the subject of a 2012 documentary, Beware of Mr. Baker. In his autobiography, Hellraiser, Baker said he quit heroin 29 times and was candid about his drug and alcohol abuse.

In early 2010s, Baker announced that he had obstructive pulmonary disease, and in 2016, he canceled a tour, citing heart problems.

Rush drummer Neil Peart once described Baker as an "extrovert, primal and inventive." Baker, Peart added, "set the bar for what rock drumming could be."

When asked in an interview how he would like to be remembered, Baker said, "Drummer."

(Photo: Zoran Veselinovic)

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