Beware Of Mr. Baker is nominally documentary about madman drumming legend Ginger Baker, whose musical history includes working with Cream, Blind Faith and Fela Kuti, amongst others. But it’s just as much a cautionary tale about what happens when you do what you want and don’t really give a shit about anything or anyone else.
Right from scene one — in which Baker, now an angry old curmudgeon withering his days away in South Africa, attacks director Jay Bulger — the drummer’s reputation as a difficult person is on display.
Sure, enough, as Bulger takes the viewer through a Baker 101 history lesson — his toxic relationships with Cream bassist Jack Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton, his drummer battles versus other legendary beaters, his flameouts with ex-wives and his world traveling misadventures — complete with often compelling archival footage, it becomes absolutely clear Baker’s a jerk and a horrible person.
But he’s also a bold, unique and uncompromising one.
The only things that Baker actually cares about are his drumming, his desire to be taken seriously by respected jazz musicians, and the stable of polo horses he keeps. Every other aspect of Baker’s journey through life he treats with something between indifference and bridge-burning malevolence.
For anyone who has seen Lemmy, the documentary on Motorhead‘s Lemmy Kilmister, there are some interesting parallels between the moled singer and Baker. Both have untraditional relationships with sons who’ve clearly also gone into music to forge some connections with their fathers, both lead relatively solitary, arguably sad lives, yet both remain unrepentantly committed to what they are. They’ve lived their lives as musical outlaws, doing what they want, how they want to do it, and damn the consequences, they’ll never change.
And that’s the thing. Decades from now few people will remember Ginger Baker the horrible human, but those Cream records, his virtual invention of the drum solo, his travels to Africa on musical walkabouts — those are the things he’ll likely be remembered for. And if Baker ruffled a few feathers to achieve it all, he’d probably say it was worth it. And then punch you.
Beware Of Mr. Baker trailer
Cream “I Feel Free”
Fela Kuti in performance, filmed by Ginger Baker