Who doesn't love R2-D2? I mean honestly, whether you are a fan of Star Wars, the prequels, or the spin-offs, you have to love the spunky little droid on two wheels. When my friends and I first became enamored with the Star Wars universe way back in the day, we always wondered "Were there people in the droids?" Well now I know the answer is yes, and that man is Kenny Baker.

Kenny Baker was born in Birmingham, England on August 24, 1934, obviously making him a British citizen. Being born a dwarf, Kenny quickly learned how to adapt in order to live a standard life. At the age of 6, he enrolled at the Shaftesbury Society, located in London. Passing on public education due to his short stature, the Shaftesbury Society specialized in educating children with 'disabilities'.

Mr. Baker's professional career began when he was 16 years old. Kenny decided that he was going to make the best out of his condition and joined the Burton Lester's Midgets production company as a performer. It was here that Kenny learned how to really use his size as an advantage while performing on stage.

After the very enlightening time at Burton Lester's, Kenny took up DJing with the Mecca Organization. He didn't find this trade to be to his liking, and moved onto the Billy Smart Circus performing as a clown and a shadow ringmaster. He enjoyed this job very much, and even today Kenny talks about his days with the circus with a gleam in his eye.

Realizing the need to move on yet again, Kenny decided he wanted to travel and did so by performing panto and ice shows. It was this posting that he had the honor of meeting England's reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth. He left the ice shortly after the meeting with the queen to form a musical comedy act; The Mini Tones.

With his time with The Tones behind him, Kenny became a performer in a nightclub with his good friend Jack Purvis. It was this friendship that would bring our dear Kenny into the role that would forever define him.

Purvis was already cast in Star Wars, due to a friendship with director George Lucas . . . and he wanted his friend to be cast as well. George had an idea for Baker as a Cantina alien, but when he saw Kenny for the first time and his subsequent stature; he immediately cast him for the role of R2-D2.

So in 1977, Baker starred in what would be his signature work. Fans immediately fell for the cocky droid with the neurotic friend C-3PO, and became a worldwide sensation. Demand for public appearances skyrocketed with the success of "Star Wars", and Kenny was catapulted into the worldwide limelight for the first time. It is this fame that ensured him, along with fellow man-in-droid Anthony Daniels, a role in all six "Star Wars" movies; quite the impressive streak.

Since the "Wars", Baker has kept himself busy with the sequels and prequels of the franchise as well as performing in other works of note such as "Labyrinth", "Willow", and "The Elephant Man". He is also still in high public demand and keeps a busy schedule with convention and miscellaneous other appearances worldwide.

Kenny prefers to keep his private life just that; private. He is married, and has two grown sons. Kenny Baker is one of the most beloved of all the characters in "Star Wars", and to those that knew him before his fame in the United States, will forever be immortalized as a first class performer off the silver screen.

Editor's note: Kenny Baker died at his home in Lancashire on August 13, 2016, at the age of 81.

roninspoon adds: 'i once saw this guy get into a drunken argument with a talking parrot at a hotel/resort in Phoenix, AZ a couple of years ago.'


filmography: www.imdb.com
biographical info: www.kennybaker.com, www.imdb.com, www.starwars.com/bio/kennybaker.html

Kenny Baker, MBE - trumpet player and world class jazz musician, 1921 - 1999.

While we have Kenny Baker, who needs Louis Armstrong?
- British Musicians' Union

Whilst I could never be described as being a great fan of jazz music, even I cannot fail to appreciate watching a true master at his work. I had the privilege of briefly meeting Kenny Baker, having heard him play at a jazz festival, a mere few months before his death. A gentle, kind and sincere man when he spoke, watching 78 year old Kenny play the trumpet so superbly was awesome indeed, and it was easy to believe that he had played alongside such greats as The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

Born in Yorkshire, England on March 1, 1921, Kenny Baker was encouraged by his mother to play music from a very early age. Having started on the piano, he quickly moved on to a variety of instuments, and was playing the cornet by the age of ten. His skills were honed playing for the West Hull Silver Band and by the time he moved down to London in the late 1930s he was a very accomplished musician capable of playing section or solo in any jazz or dance band.

He found success quickly, his first professional job was with Sandy Powell's Concert Party in 1939, and then with Lew Stone's Orchestra at the Palace Theatre, London. The war years saw Kenny making big band dance music with the RAF Fighter Command band, and also making recordings with a number of other popular bands. After demobilisation he joined the Ted Heath Orchestra as trumpet solo, and also did an enormous amount of freelance work both at home and abroad. By April 1952 he was working regularly for BBC radio in the programme Let's Settle for Music, as frontman with his own jazz band, Baker's Dozen, playing a broad spectrum of jazz music from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Don Redman, Red Nichols and Bix Beiderbecke.

Throughout the sixties this popular and talented musician was in great demand for the making of film soundtracks, as a backing musician and on television programmes. He continued to tour with bands during the 70s and made the trumpet soundtrack to the extremely popular British TV series The Beiderbecke Tapes, The Beiderbecke Affair and The Beiderbecke Connection, in the 80s. The 1990s saw him reforming The Baker's Dozen and selling out Ronnie Scott's during a highly successful UK tour. Kenny was also chosen to be the lead trumpet player in the digital remake of all the music by the renowned Louis Armstrong - a wonderful showcase for his brilliance.

Kenny Baker was delighting audiences with his fine playing up until a few weeks before his unexpected death. Kenny died in Chichester, on 7 December 1999, of viral pneumonia.

One of the true greats, playing at the top of his profession for over 60 years, what better tribute to the man than that from playwright Alan Plater (creator of the Beiderbecke series):

...working with Kenny really was the most fun I've ever had while being paid for it. The news of his death was devastating because I thought he was immortal. I still do.


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