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Review - 'Beware of Mr. Baker'

Ginger Baker: "I'm not a rock drummer. I'm a musician playing music."

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

Beware of Mr. Baker
Vivendi Entertainment
Saying that Ginger Baker is a pretty good drummer is like saying that Eric Clapton might be a decent guitar player someday.

  • "He's a force of nature." - Carlos Santana
  • "He personally is what drums are all about." - Stewart Copeland, The Police
  • "The World's greatest drummer." - Chad Smith, Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • "He is certifiably nuts, he's mad." - Graeme Edge, The Moody Blues
  • "God bless him. May the road rise. He helped me rise my road." - Johnny Rotten, Sex Pistols
  • "He's a rogue, a lovable rogue. There's no myth about Ginger, he is exactly what he is." - Eric Clapton, Cream/Blind Faith band mate
  • "I love him" - Jack Bruce, Cream and Graham Bond Organization band mate (who was once beaten up by Baker on stage for playing during a drum solo)

That's just a sample of the kinds of things that people Baker has known, worked with, and influenced in the new new DVD release of the film, Beware of Mr. Baker.
Ginger Baker cuts loose during a Blind Faith concert in Hyde Park, London in 1969

"Least likely to survive the '60s"

Ginger Baker was once voted "the rock star least likely to survive the '60s." He almost didn't. He wrecked cars, he wrecked marriages (including several of his own), he drank heavily and he had a serious drug addiction which he wasn't able to overcome until the '80s.

Beware of Mr. Baker depicts that side of the artist, as well as the side that has brought him acclaim as an innovative, adventurous, fearless drummer. Not bad for a guy who got his first gig as a drummer with no training or experience, and couldn't read music until he taught himself how to do it.

Eric Clapton talk about Baker's talent as a drummer in a clip from Beware of Mr. Baker

What makes Mr. Baker so angry?

Ginger Baker and childrenGinger Baker with two of his three children in 1974, photo by D. Morrison/Express/Getty Images
The film makes it pretty clear that Baker's gruff, sometimes violent persona is not an act. So when he invites anyone who has a problem with him to "come see me and give me a punch on the nose" and promises to respond by hitting back, you tend to believe him.

In a recent video interview with London's The Guardian 'Mr. Baker' aimed his ire at the interviewer.

Beyond the stories of a wild lifestyle and a curmudgeonly personality, there are some revealing personal stories that help to complete the puzzle that is Ginger Baker. His son, Kofi (who is one of Baker's three children, and also a drummer) speaks candidly, but seemingly without bitterness when he says, "I don't think he should have had a family. I think he'd have been way better off in life if he'd never had kids and just did his thing. He'd have left a lot less of a mess behind."

At 73 (when the film was shot in 2012) he looks his age, having to walk with aid of a cane due to various injuries and surgeries through the years, and with the flaming red hair that earned him the nickname "Ginger" now a grayish brown. But it's clear that the inner flame that drove him throughout his career to near destruction personally and near immortality musically, is still there.

Baker plays his trademark solo, "Toad" during a Cream reunion concert in London in 2005 (as the video shows, all he threw that night were his drum sticks, to very receptive audience members, and the onstage, show-closing hugs included Baker and onetime nemesis, Jack Bruce)

The whole story

When I reviewed the DVD of Cream's 2005 reunion concert, I wrote, "Ginger Baker is why kids daydream about how cool it would be to play drums. Then they discover the intense physical and musical demands that are required and opt for something easier, like bench pressing 500 pounds. About half-way through Baker's solo on "Toad" I realized that my mouth was actually hanging open."

Beware of Mr. Baker is for all of those who know Ginger Baker very well musically, but never knew much about his real life. The film is alternately darkly humorous and downright sad. You know, just like real life. And it also has a generous portion of some of Baker's most memorable performances.

In addition to the fellow artists seen in the clips or quoted in this review, the long list of those interviewed for the film also includes Neil Peart (Rush); Lars Ulrich (Metallica); Steve Winwood (Blind Faith band mate); Charlie Watts (The Rolling Stones); Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead); Nick Mason (Pink Floyd); Bill Ward (Black Sabbath); Denny Laine (Wings, The Moody Blues), all of whom offer frank and thoughtful insights about the man, and the musician.

Beware of Mr. Baker was screened at SXSW in 2012 (where it won a Grand Jury award) and has been shown in theaters. It was released on DVD on May 17, 2013 and is also available for digital download.
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