Cream bass player and singer Jack Bruce — actually, John Symon Asher Bruce — would have turned 74 years old on Sunday.
This is from Bruce’s website:
Hailed as one of the most powerful vocalists and greatest bassists of his time, his improvisational skill and utterly unique, free-spirited approach to composition and performance would forever change electric music. His pioneering, full-toned, free-wheeling playing on the electric bass revolutionised the way the instrument is used and influenced the playing of countless bassists to today, including Sting and Jaco Pastorius. His work with bands such as Cream and the Tony Williams Lifetime, as well as his solo material, unlocked the doors to the pent-up energy of a new approach to the art of sound, breaking the barriers of tradition and creating a kind of music that had never been heard.
Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker had a difficult relationship. Guitar World tells the story of Cream’s formation:
Clapton agreed to join Baker’s new group, but he unwittingly threw a wrench into the drummer’s plans. Clapton made a special request that Jack Bruce be recruited as the group’s bassist. Clapton had briefly played with Bruce at the tail end of his tenure with John Mayall and came away impressed by the bassist’s skill. Unbeknownst to Clapton, Baker and Bruce were like oil and water. The relationship had proven to be so turbulent that Bruce, uncomfortable with Baker, had left the Graham Bond Organization even as their fortunes were rising.
So eager was Baker to form a partnership with Clapton that, despite his misgivings, he agreed to have Bruce come aboard. Clapton, still unaware of the tension between his new bandmates, witnessed its volatile nature at the new group’s first get–together.
It’s strange how musicians are thrown together as kids and are forever linked. This sometimes works out and sometimes doesn’t. Apparently, the tension between Baker and Bruce went on until the end — the very end. From Forbes:
The story goes when late bassist Jack Bruce was a few hours from death in 2014, he phoned up close friends to say goodbye. When he called his ex-Cream band mate Ginger Baker, he told him, “I’m dying, Ginger, f*ck you,” then slammed down the phone. Baker tried to call back several times, of course, but Bruce wouldn’t pick up.
If that is not a true story, it is certainly plausible. Bruce, who had a wicked sense of humor, always said Baker wanted the last word – well, this time he wouldn’t get it.
Baker, who was Scottish, also played in Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Manfred Mann, The Tony Williams Lifetime, West, Bruce and Laing, Rocket 88, Kip Hanrahan, BBM, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.
Above is a very different version of Sunshine of Your Love. Unfortunately, interviews are embedded.
Homepage photo by Christian Sahm