Jack Bruce, Cream's Influential Bassist and Singer, Dead at 71

Cream was one of the only major Sixties rock bands that could regroup—assuming they wanted to—in 2014. That is, until yesterday.

Jack Bruce, best known as Cream's bassist and principal vocalist, died Saturday at his home in Suffolk, England. He was 71.

His family announced the death on his website and Facebook page, writing, "It is with great sadness that we, Jack’s family, announce the passing of our beloved Jack: husband, father, granddad, and all round legend. The world of music will be a poorer place without him, but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts."

Bruce's publicist later added, "He died today at his home in Suffolk surrounded by his family." While no other details have been revealed, the Press Association reports Bruce suffered from liver disease. Bruce had received a liver transplant several years ago.

it’s nearly impossible to exaggerate the importance of Cream. They were rock’s first power trio: they gave birth to the notion of the “rock virtuoso,” laid the foundation for heavy metal and inspired several generations of bands, from Black Sabbath to Van Halen to Smashing Pumpkins.

Although guitarist Eric Clapton was Cream's biggest star, Bruce sang most of the band's classic tracks, including "White Room," "SWLABR," "Tales of Brave Ulysses," "Spoonful," "N.S.U." and "Sunshine of Your Love," which he co-wrote with Clapton and Pete Brown. Drummer Ginger Baker made up the final third of Cream.

"He was a great musician and composer, and a tremendous inspiration to me," wrote Clapton in an official statement today.

"I am very sad to learn of the loss of a fine man, Jack Bruce," added Baker in a statement of his own. "My thoughts and wishes are with his family at this difficult time."

Cream released four studio albums between 1966 and 1969—Fresh Cream (1966), Disraeli Gears (1967), Wheels of Fire (1968) and Goodbye (1969). The band disbanded after their farewell show at London's Royal Albert Hall on November 26, 1968.

Cream reunited in 1993 for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and in 2005 for a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and New York City's Madison Square Garden. In 2006, the band received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

After Cream's initial breakup in 1968, Bruce kicked off a solo career with 1969's Songs of a Tailor, which featured contributions from the Beatles' George Harrison, who also co-wrote "Badge," a track on Cream's final album. Bruce released more than a dozen solo albums over the next 45 years, including 2014's Silver Rails.

"I quite like to just enjoy my life," Bruce told Rolling Stone in April. "I'm thrilled to make this album. I put my heart and soul into it, and I'm very pleased with the way it came out."

Bruce was born May 14, 1943, in Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire, U.K. In 1962, he joined the London-based Blues Incorporated, in which he played upright bass. In 1963, the group broke up and Bruce formed the Graham Bond Quartet with Bond, Baker and guitarist John McLaughlin.

After he left the band in 1965, he released a solo single, "I'm Gettin Tired," and briefly joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, which featured Clapton. After his stint with the Bluesbreakers, Bruce tasted commercial success as a member of Manfred Mann; their song "Pretty Flamingo" reached Number 1 in the U.K. singles chart in 1966.

While he was with Manfred Mann, Bruce collaborated with Clapton as a member of the Powerhouse, which recorded a version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" upon which Cream's famous live version was based. Bruce formed Cream with Clapton and Bruce in 1966.

After Cream and during his solo years, Bruce joined several short-lived bands, including another supergroup, West, Bruce and Laing, which featured Mountain's guitarist and drummer, Leslie West and Corky Laing. They released two studio albums, Why Dontcha (1972) and Whatever Turns You On (1973).

In 1993, Bruce formed BBM (Bruce-Baker-Moore). The band, which released one Cream-inspired studio album (Around The Next Dream) in 1994, featured Bruce, Baker and guitarist Gary Moore.

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.