Artist News Obituaries

Jack Bruce 1943-2014

By | Published on Monday 27 October 2014

Jack Bruce

Scottish musician Jack Bruce, who’s maybe most famed for his time in super-band Cream, but also as one of the most gifted bass players in rock history, died on Saturday, aged 71, at his home in Suffolk. A spokesman for his family confirmed that the cause of his death was liver disease, Bruce having received a liver transplant as a treatment for cancer in 2003.

Paying tribute to his late Cream bandmate, Eric Clapton has said that “he was a great musician and composer, and a tremendous inspiration to me”.

Born in Lanarkshire in 1942, Bruce initially trained as a classical cellist and composer at the Royal Scottish Academy Of Music & Drama, later finding a love for jazz and, in 1962, joining Alexis Korner’s London-based band Blues Incorporated, in which he played upright bass alongside Ginger Baker on drums.

Having made the switch to electric bass, Bruce moved on, with Baker, to form the Graham Bond Organisation, releasing a chain of singles and two LPs. He exited the band in 1965, partly over his volatile relationship with Baker, and later collaborated with guitarist Eric Clapton via a short stint in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, which he quit for a profitable placement in Manfred Mann.

Clapton, Baker and, on the former’s insistence, Bruce, formed Cream, one of rock’s first ‘power trios’, in 1966, mixing shades of jazz, blues and florid psych rock on their first LP ‘Fresh Cream’, a split of covers and original songs released that same year. Bruce acted as lead vocalist on the lion’s share of its tracks, and on Cream’s headily psychedelic 1967 follow-on ‘Disraeli Gears’, this featuring classic Cream single ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’, a co-write by Bruce, Clapton and lyricist Pete Brown.

Cream became a live sensation in America on playing their first dates in the States that year. Their deafeningly-amplified shows became known, as Clapton later defined it, for their “endless, meaningless solos”, which occasionally meant songs were extended to 20 minutes or more. As Baker said in a 2006 interview with Music Mart magazine: “It damaged my hearing permanently, and today I’ve still got a hearing problem because of the sheer volume throughout the last year of Cream. But it didn’t start off like that. In 1966, it was great. It was really a wonderful experience musically, and it just went into the realms of stupidity”.

The release of 1968’s prog-leaning dual-LP ‘Wheels Of Fire’ signalled the end of days for the band – this in spite of the lasting legacy of tracks like ‘White Room’, and of the longplayer as a whole. Cream released one final LP, the aptly-titled ‘Goodbye’, after their split in 1968. Thereafter Clapton and Baker reconciled to form the short-lived Blind Faith with Steve Winwood and Ric Grech, whilst Bruce released his first solo LP ‘Songs For A Tailor’, following that with the jazzy ‘Things We Like’, which he’d actually made earlier than the conventionally ‘rock’ ‘Tailor’.

‘Harmony Row’, released in 1971, was followed by a latter eleven solo records, most recently this year’s ‘Silver Rails’, over which span Bruce was a prolific collaborator with the likes of Frank Zappa (on 1974’s ‘Apostrophe’), Mick Jagger and John Lennon (on one-off track ‘Too Many Cooks’) and Alexis Korner’s ‘Rocket 88’, all the while maintaining his so-named ‘Jack Bruce & Friends’ circle with guitarist Larry Coryell, one-time Rolling Stone Mick Taylor and Carla Bley, also singing on the latter’s triple-LP ‘jazz opera’ circa 1971, ‘Escalator Over The Hill’.

Bruce was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, and given a liver transplant, recuperating in time to take part in Cream’s high-profile reunion in 2005, which saw the trio play a handful of sold out (obviously) shows in London and New York. They received a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys in 2006.

Bruce is survived by his wife Margrit, four children, and a granddaughter.