For Kofi Baker, playing the music of Cream is bittersweet.
His father, Ginger Baker, was the backbeat of Cream before dying October 6.
“When he passed away, I was in England with The Music of Cream,” he says. “It’s a different thing for me now. I feel like it’s my responsibility to keep this music going.”
Formed in London in 1966, Cream featured bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker. It’s considered one of the world’s first supergroups.
The Music of Cream began in 2017 with a handful of concerts celebrating the 50th anniversary of Cream in Australia and New Zealand. For 2020 and beyond, The Music of Cream will hit the road with a new show and lineup. Honoring the original band’s landmark 1967 recording of “Disraeli Gears,” often considered Cream’s crowning achievement, concerts will feature the album performed in its entirety, followed by “Clapton Classics” including hits like “Cocaine,” “Layla” “Crossroads” and “Wonderful Tonight” along with other Cream hits and rarities.
The Music of Cream is Kofi Baker on drums and Will Johns (Clapton’s nephew and son of Led Zeppelin/Rolling Stones engineer Andy Johns) on guitar and vocals. They’re paired with musicians Sean McNabb and Chris Shutters.
Baker’s mission is to expose younger fans to Cream’s music. He argues that today’s music “really sucks.”
“That period (of Cream) was the best,” he says. “The musicians really knew how to play. I want to bring this musicianship and good songs back to the music business.
“The thing is today, when you go see your band, there’s a big show with all of these dancers and the music is just crap. You didn’t have to have all the stimulation. It’s all the same, too.”
Baker says the Cream song “Blue Condition” is the most challenging on the tour.
“I have to sing the melody and play it,” he says. “The most challenging part is making the jams musical—the improv parts really musical—and (making) them go somewhere.
“Everything else is really comfortable. I’ve been a drummer most of my life.”
Baker grew up playing original jazz and fusion music. He served as Steve Marriott’s drummer in Humble Pie, and fronted his own band, Kofi Baker’s Psychedelic Trip. Playing Cream’s music, however, is comfortable.
“My dad pretty much played it the way he felt it,” he says. “It’s like playing my family’s music. It feels very nice, especially because my dad’s dead now. It feels great keeping my legacy going. It’s a good feeling all around for me.”
What isn’t a good feeling is the drama Baker has endured since his father died.
“He never really talked to me once he married his fourth wife,” he says of Kudzai Machokoto. “She kept my dad away from us all. She was a very bad influence. She told my dad we all hated them. When I went to him in hospital before he died, I found out it was his wife. He was nice to me.”
He bequeathed his drums to his son, but Machokoto, he says, has refused to hand them over.
“She won’t give me the drums,” he says. “I want to send them to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They don’t pay you for it. I want to get his drums there. She even said to me in hospital, ‘Dad wants you to have the kit.’ Now she’s saying the opposite. It’s really sad that these people come into these people’s lives at the end and take over. That’s a hardship to deal with.”
Ginger was known for his fiery temper. When Kofi spoke to his dad in the hospital, he was surprised at his temperament.
“I was blown away that my dad wasn’t the person I thought he was the last 10 years,” he says.
“When my dad’s fourth wife did all that stuff, she wanted to have everything. She emailed my sister and said, ‘You’re out of the will.’ She’s not very smart to put it in writing. She’s not a very smart person. My sister really wants to fight it, but it’s not about the money. She’s so nasty.”
“The Music of Cream: Performing ‘Disraeli Gears’ and ‘Clapton Classics,’” Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Avenue, sandiegotheatres.org, 7 p.m. Sunday, March 8, tickets start at $43.