Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special features J.W. Sexton high alum Josh Baker
Josh Baker-Dukes teased his Facebook friends a holiday surprise on Nov. 27.
He is in Mariah Carey’s Apple TV+ Christmas special, drumming along to past hits and new releases.
“She’s a very good boss,” Baker said. “I tell people all the time she is very loyal to us and she was figuring out how she can incorporate us into this project even during COVID.”
Months of brainstorming the project and taking a coronavirus test to be in Los Angeles, California, led to the special, which premiered Dec. 4 on the streaming platform.
Baker, who joined Carey’s touring team in 2014, adored playing the singer’s past Christmas hits like “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” calling them songs that have “stood the test of time.”
“He was always putting that work in since we were 11 or 12 and now, we’re 32 and he’s doing the same thing,” said Aarien Johnson, a longtime friend of Baker. “Seeing his hard work coming to fruition and playing for Mariah Carey, representing us in a sense, coming from Lansing to play for this artist is amazing.”
Drums fascinated Baker at a young age. His uncle Edward Watson had a set in his basement and a captivated Baker watched his uncle play.
“I used to go to Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church and it always interested me,” Baker said. “This one instrument, the positive control it had over everybody to make them want to dance, move and the way it felt was so….”
He trailed off in awe of the instrument.
Baker and Johnson befriended each other in sixth grade at Dwight Rich Middle School. There, they were percussionists in the school’s band, taught by music teacher Sallie Jones.
Jones introduced the young drummer to distractions that may happen during concerts. She sat next to him during sets and carried on a casual conversation. He did not know, at the time, she was preparing him for the future, he added.
“She was preparing me to be able to do multiple things at one time,” Baker remembered. “Sometimes on stage, something may happen and you need to be able to play, talk and communicate.”
Daniel Boggan III, current principal at the high school, coached the two back then. He remembered being in awe of Baker’s abilities and advised the then-18-year-old to pursue his interest in drumming.
“I remember telling him, ‘Move towards your passion. Your passion is drumming, go after it,’” Boggan recalled.
That Baker did.
He moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to study music theory and play drums at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media. He joined a rock band that toured Europe for two years and later accepted each offered gig.
One gig early in his career changed his life.
Baker worked with Carey’s musical director for unrelated projects and was asked to play a gig at Rockefeller Plaza for NBC’s “Today” show. The drummer did not know he was playing for the artist, as initial thoughts were for an opening act.
“Eventually her tour manager sent me an email with music and I was like, ‘Wait, this is Mariah’s music,'” Baker said.
The appearance landed him a permanent spot on Carey’s team. But she was not his first artist.
He has played with the likes of Two Chainz, John Legend, Kirk Franklin and many others including Snoop Dogg.
“Snoop is a legend, he’s definitely great to work with,” Baker said. “He very down to earth and humble and there’s a mutual respect of our craft and his craft.”
Johnson described Baker being a person who loved giving back. Baker impressed Johnson at a young age during a volunteering opportunity with the football team. Johnson was reluctant to go load canned goods on a truck to be transported to a facility.
Baker made a convincing argument and later inspired Johnson to give back whenever possible.
“It opened my eyes to see the amount of canned goods we could load on the trucks and the families we will help,” he added.
Only Apple TV+ subscribers can watch the special. An Apple TV+ subscription is $4.99 per month and can be accessed on any device. The streaming service did not set an end date on the Christmas special.
“Josh has made it to that level of very high exposure,” Boggan said. “When you’re talking about someone like Mariah Carey, a multi-Grammy winner, and one of the biggest names in the business, you’re doing big things with her.”
From LSJ on: 12-15-2020 article