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Jack Bruce: “Sunshine of Your Love”

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 terrific version of “Sunshine of Your Love” with Peter Frampton taking the lead. It’s Ringo’s All Starr band.

Homepage photo by Christian Sahm

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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