Who Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham Considered a True Pioneer Among Rock Drummers

by Jeremy Spirogis
Ginger Baker of Cream on drums

Start a debate concerning the “Best Rock Drummers Ever” and also you’re going to have conversations about a number of of the music’s biggest personalities. That’s as a result of you’ll be able to’t sort out the topic with out citing Keith Moon (1946-1978) of The Who and John Bonham (1948-80) of Led Zeppelin.

In their day, “Bonzo” and “Moon the Loon” would mild up arenas with their drumming after which cap off the night time by terrorizing the occupants of the resorts the place they have been staying. And then they’d do the identical the following night time (and numerous extra occasions on that tour).

But the work they left behind on Who and Zeppelin information ensures them a spot on the Mount Rushmore of drummers. And whilst you’re carving that mountain you’ll want a sketch of Ginger Baker (1939-2019), the fiery drummer of Cream and varied bands he led beneath his personal title.

For a drummer like Bonham, who got here of age within the early ’60s, Baker was the one to observe (and study from). “I don’t think anyone can ever put Ginger Baker down,” Bonham mentioned in an interview revealed in Led Zeppelin in Their Own Words. He actually admired the best way Baker took a lead position in rock bands.

John Bonham mentioned Ginger Baker was the first rock drummer to play a starring position

Ginger Baker of Cream on drums
Ginger BAKER performs with Cream on stage, circa 1967. | David Redfern/Redferns

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When you consider drummers who elevated the equipment’s standing and have become stars in bands (and even bandleaders), Gene Krupa is commonly the consensus choose. Krupa’s showmanship and leading-from-the-kit mentality impressed generations of drummers (Moon included).

But by way of rock drummers Bonham thought Baker was the equal. “People hadn’t taken much notice of drums before Krupa,” Bonham mentioned in In Their Own Words. “And Ginger Baker was responsible for the same thing in rock.” To Bonham, it was about Baker’s total strategy.

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“[Baker] was the first to come out with this ‘new’ attitude — that a drummer could be a forward musician in a rock band, and not something that was stuck in the background and forgotten about,” Bonham mentioned. And he admired the best way Baker showcased his distinctive influences.

“I think Baker was really more into jazz than rock,” Bonham mentioned. “He plays with a jazz influence. He’s always doing things in 5/4 and 3/4 tempos. […] Ginger’s thing as a drummer is that he was always himself.”

Bonham’s favourite Baker interval got here earlier than the Cream days

John Bonham in 1977John Bonham in 1977
Led Zeppelin in 1977: John Bonham on the drums | Chris Walter/WireImage)

Though Baker had performed in bands previous to Cream, his run with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce of their energy trio from 1966-68 made him world-famous. And tracks equivalent to “Toad,” which featured an prolonged drum solo, eradicated any doubts about Baker’s place within the band. (Bonham made the same assertion with “Moby Dick” on Led Zeppelin II.)

After Cream, Baker performed with Blind Faith (one other band that includes Clapton) after which fashioned Ginger Baker’s Air Force. In the ’70s, he arrange a recording studio in Nigeria and collaborated with Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. Clearly, Baker didn’t like sitting nonetheless for lengthy.

But of all these collaborations Bonham most well-liked his early work. “I thought he was fantastic with the Graham Bond Organisation [1963-66],” Bonham mentioned. “It’s a pity American audiences didn’t see that band because it really was a fantastic group — Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Graham Bond.”

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