Arthur Baker (musician)
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Arthur Baker (born April 22 1955, Boston, Massachusetts is an American record producer and DJ best known for his work with hip hop artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Planet Patrol and the British group New Order.
Baker's career began as a club DJ in Boston in the early 1970s, where he was known for playing crowd-pleasing soul and Philly soul. Nonetheless, he had little patience for DJ'ing, saying in an interview: "[If] I didn't get a good reaction on a record, I'd just rip it off, break it up and throw it on the dancefloor."
In 1981, Baker moved to New York, where he continued to DJ whilst pursuing a career as a producer. His first successful single was "Happy Days", which he released under the name North End on Emergency Records in 1981.
In the early eighties Baker and his contemporaries, lacking the inexpensive digital recording equipment that would emerge a decade later were known for using tape for remixes. In this area he worked with closely with the premiere duo of the tape edit, The Latin Rascals, who themselves had been influenced by the earlier work of Tom Moulton, John Morales (see M and M), and Walter Gibbons (the creator of the first commercially available twelve-inch version of a song in Double Exposure's "Ten Percent". The Latin Rascals would eventually edit the work of every major United States dance music producer active in the 1980's, but in the early days they were part of Baker's circle.
He went on to work for hip-hop label Tommy Boy Records, where he produced Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force's "Planet Rock" single, which was a hit in the summer of 1982. The record combined elements from two Kraftwerk recordings, "Trans Europe Express" and "Numbers", which were imitated by studio musicians, rather than sampled. Then later on he produced Planet Patrol "Plat At Your Own Risk" single in 1982, another group with a hit Album in 1983.
In 1983 Baker found work in doing dance remixes of pop and rock hits, first with Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", then with Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark", "Cover Me", and "Born in the U.S.A." from his mega-hit Born in the U.S.A. album.
Following these successes, Baker came to the attention of Manchester pop group New Order, who asked him to produce their songs "Confusion" and "Thieves Like Us." The 12" single of "Confusion" was a crossover hit on the U.S. dance charts, and established a relationship between Baker and the band which has continued for more than twenty years. This also set a precedent for rock-style bands to produce dance records and remixes, which have now become commonplace.
In 1984, the New York-based Baker worked with fellow New Yorkers Hall & Oates as "mix consultant" for their album Big Bam Boom, and the result was a markedly urban and electronic sound for the duo. Baker co-wrote with Daryl Hall the opening instrumental, "Dance On Your Knees." He also remixed that song and the album's other three chart hits --"Out Of Touch," "Method Of Modern Love" and "Possession Obsession."
In 1985, Baker helped Bob Dylan complete his Empire Burlesque album as mixer & arranger, and also along with Little Steven Van Zant organised and produced the anti-apartheid anthem "Sun City" by Artists United Against Apartheid. He was later honored by the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid for "high valuable contribution to the international campaign for the elimination of apartheid and the establishment of a non-racial and democratic society in South Africa".
In the late 1980s and later into the 1990s, Baker worked with Soul star Al Green, writing and producing the international hit "The Message Is Love" and the anti-handgun song "Leave The Guns At Home". He also was the music supervisor of the films "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "Listen Up- The Lives Of Quincy Jones".
In the 1990s, following a break from production for some years, Baker moved to London, and established a chain of successful bars—The Elbow Rooms—across the city. He also owns two soul-food restaurants in London called "Harlem," located in Brixton and Notting Hill. He continues to work as a DJ and producer and recently produced "Part-A" for the genre-busting London Electro Metal band, Monsta.
In 2006, the financial services company Visa used a Baker-produced track from Afrika Bambaataa's "Looking For the Perfect Beat" as the backing music of a Visa Check Card commercial. In the ad, an animated worm drawn on the pages of a checkbook does the 1980s dance "the worm."