Sam Baker, in 1986 at the age of 32, was travelling in Peru when, as he says, “I got in the middle of someone else’s war.” A terrorist bomb (the Sendero Luminosa or ‘Shining Path’ Maoist group) blew up the train he and some friends were riding on. Several passengers died including a German boy and his parents who were sitting next to Baker. Though he nearly bled to death, Sam survived but suffered a constellation of injuries and after effects – shrapnel in his leg, renal failure, brain damage, even gangrene. “Right now, the loudest thing I hear is the ringing in my head,” he says of the Tinnitus, which will never go away. The other obvious reminder of the blast is his left hand, the fingers of which are permanently scrunched and twisted. Fortunately he has enough dexterity to grip a pick – after re-learning to play guitar left-handed. The brain damage he initially suffered affected mainly the part of the brain where words are stored - which is ironic, since it’s the stories and images he paints with words that brought him acclaim – first with his 2004 debut, ‘Mercy’, and now with its 2007 follow up, ‘Pretty World’. ‘For somebody who’s gone through the pain and trauma he’s gone through, Sam Baker has an amazingly positive outlook on life, as though everything’s a gift at this point.
“Everything is a gift at this point,” he declares. “But, see, it’s a gift for you at this point. It’s not just me; it’s everybody in this restaurant. I went through the anger and the bitterness – deeply. But that energy didn’t get me anywhere. It’s toxic. And ultimately, I did come to a point where these days are beautiful. Because they’re so short and quick to pass. And that’s all we’ve got – no matter what we hold in our hands, drive around in, put in the bank, or shower ourselves with.”
Dan Forte – Wood And Steel Magazine, 2007. Published by Taylor Guitars