Jack Bruce dies at 71; bassist for rock supergroup Cream
Jack Bruce, whose muscular yet melodic bass lines helped power the bluesy British rock trio Cream, died Saturday at his home in Suffolk, England. He was 71.
His death was confirmed by his publicist, Claire Singers, who told the Associated Press the cause was liver disease. He’d had a liver transplant in 2003.
Often described as the first rock supergroup (because its members were already experienced players when they formed the band), Cream featured Bruce, who also sang, along with singer-guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker.
The musicians were celebrated for the virtuosity they brought to blues tunes like “Spoonful” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and for catchy originals such as “White Room” and “Sunshine of Your Love,” both of which Bruce co-wrote and are among the hits that have become staples on classic-rock radio.
Yet their success didn’t prevent the three from fighting.
“When it came to getting along together, they might have called us Sour Cream,” Bruce told the Los Angeles Times in 1989. “In many ways, it was like a bad marriage.”
Bruce was born to working-class parents in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 14, 1943. The family moved often during Bruce’s childhood, but he returned to Scotland to study cello at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. After leaving school in 1962, he played in a series of blues bands — including John Mayall’s influential Bluesbreakers — before forming Cream with Clapton, who had also worked for Mayall, and Baker.
The band took off quickly: “Fresh Cream,” its first studio album, came out in 1966, followed by “Disraeli Gears” in 1967 and “Wheels of Fire” in 1968. “Goodbye,” Cream’s final disc (with several live tracks recorded at the Forum in Inglewood), appeared in 1969, though by that time the group had already broken up, the result of “personality conflicts, hassles with fame, drug abuse,” Bruce said in 1989.
The bassist then launched a long solo career; he also went on to form a number of other bands, delving into jazz and classical music along with blues and rock.
Cream reunited in 1993, when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and again in 2005 for concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall and New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Reviewing the first London gig for The Times, Phil Sutcliffe wrote that Bruce, Clapton and Baker “received a huge standing ovation even before they plunged into their signature version of bluesman Skip James’ joyous ‘I’m So Glad.’” The players “applied professional discipline” throughout the show, Sutcliffe added, with “no stamina issues evident.”
Bruce’s most recent solo album, “Silver Rails,” came out in March. Rolling Stone described it as a mix of piano ballads, Cream-style heavy blues and “a few newer rock sounds, like the harshly monochromatic ‘Drone.’ ”
Bruce’s survivors include his wife, Margrit, four children and a granddaughter.
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