Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Farewell to THE Bassist

This week, we lost one of the greatest bassists of all time: Jack Bruce. Known primarily as a member of the British power trio Cream, Bruce was an innovative multi-instrumentalist, combining blues, rock, and jazz music. A classically trained cellist (with a scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music) who learned jazz as a teenager, he performed with several bands including John Mayall & The Bluesbreaker (where he met Eric Clapton) and Manfred Mann, eventually forming Cream with Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker. Gaining international recognition playing blues-rock and jazz-inflected rock music, Bruce sang most of the lead vocals, with Clapton backing him up (who eventually sang lead himself). Before breaking up in 1968, Bruce co-wrote most of Cream's single releases with lyricist Pete Brown, including the hits "Sunshine of Your Love," "White Room" (previously featured here) and "I Feel Free." In addition to solo albums, collaborative efforts with musicians continued as a theme of Bruce's career. The Scottish musician died of liver disease on October 25th at the age of 71.

Released in December 1966, "I Feel Free" was the first song recorded by Cream and their second hit single, reaching #11 in the UK. Written by Bruce (with lyrics by Pete Brown), this classic tune showcases the band's musical diversity, effectively combining blues rock with psychedelic pop.

Written by Bruce and Brown with Clapton, "Sunshine of Your Love" was released as a single in January 1968, becoming Cream's only gold-selling single in the US. Featuring Bruce's distinctive bass riff and Clapton's iconic guitar solo, it reached #5 in the America and #25 in the UK. After Bruce and Clapton attended a Jimi Hendrix Experience concert in London, Bruce returned home and wrote the riff that runs throughout the song. Clapton later wrote the song's refrain (which also yielded the song's title) and drummer Ginger Baker came up with the song's temp, which was based on African drumming. Ranked among Rolling Stones' 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, be sure to also check out the famous live performance of Cream's Farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1968 (here).

Farewell to incomparable Jack Bruce.

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