“He influenced me as a drummer. But not as a person.” That’s what Free/Bad Company member Simon Kirke said about former Cream/Blind Faith skinsman Ginger Baker in the must-see documentary, Beware Of Mr. Baker, out this week on iTunes. Indeed, that was a theme of the entire film: a number of drumming legends – including Kirke, Neil Peart of Rush, Lars Ulrich of Metallica, Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers – sing Baker’s praises and discuss his influence. Meanwhile, his children and ex-wives give a no-holds-barred account of the chaos that surrounded the man in his personal life.
Some of the most interesting interviews are with his ex-bandmates: Jack Bruce from Cream, Steve Winwood from Blind Faith and, especially, Eric Clapton, who was in both bands. Clapton spoke at length on his days with Baker, and director Jay Bulger provided Radio.com with some exclusive outtakes from his extensive interview with the guitar god.
Clapton’s experience with therapy and recovery from addiction are apparent in the first clip, as he discusses the ties between drug dependence and musicians.
“What is Ginger without the music? I think Ginger is an incredible human being with fantastic potential. And his desire to be ‘locked into’ the music keeps him in chaos. And I had the same thing, I thought that if I stopped drinking and I stopped using drugs… I would not be able to play anymore. In other words, those were things that were necessary for inspiration. But it was a shortcut. My experience now tells me in a long time of being in recovery, that I can be a good musician with or without that philosophy. It’s a gift that I’ve been given and the best way to honor it is to stay clean and sober to be able to do it as well as I can. I wouldn’t be here today – I’d probably be dead – if I hadn’t gotten straight.”
He goes on to say that some musicians are plagued with such addictive personalities that they are even addicted to playing music.
“I know musicians, even in recovery, who cannot step away from their instrument, for more than a day. Because they fear that they won’t be able to play (anymore). Tomorrow! If they don’t practice today. That’s madness. That’s insanity!”
In another clip, Clapton talked about how, years before there was a “jam-band” scene, Cream were improvising and doing different versions of their songs every night.
Beware Of Mr. Baker is available to download or rent at iTunes now.