Jack Bruce, bass player, singer and songwriter for legendary supergroup Cream, has died. He was 71.
A message on the musician's official website reads, "It is with great sadness that we, Jack's family, announce the passing of our beloved Jack: husband, father, granddad and all around 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 formed Cream in the mid-sixties with guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker; their name came from the notion all three of them were the "the cream of the crop" on their respective instruments. In addition to playing bass, Bruce also sang many of the band's best known tunes, and co-wrote classics like "Sunshine of Your Love," "White Room" and "I Feel Free." Bruce's bass playing influenced a generation of musicians, including Sting, and Geddy Lee of Rush.
After Cream split in 1968, Bruce continued to play live, and release albums, both solo and as part of various groups, such as the blues trio West, Bruce & Laing. In 1993, for the first time in 25 years, Cream reformed to perform together: the occasion was their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Cream reunited in 2005 at the Royal Albert Hall in London for a series of four shows, and for a single show at New York's Madison Square Garden. The shows were recorded and released as a live CD and DVD.
In 2012, Bruce told ABC News Radio that there had been talk of another reunion in 2013, but that it looked like it wasn't going to happen because Ginger Baker was once again on the outs with Eric Clapton. While Bruce said he knows that there's a lot of love for Cream, and he wouldn't be "churlish" enough to refuse to do a couple of reunion concerts at some point, he noted, "I've got so many other things happening and I don't wanna be a tribute band to myself."
Bruce continued to tour and record; his most recent album, Silver Rails, came out this past March. Asked in 2012 what kept him going, Bruce told ABC News Radio, "I think the music helps to keep you going and if you think about some of the great classical instrumentalists as well as uh, as well as conductors and so on, the music....you can tell after you finished a concert, you feel and look ten years younger, you know? Everyone should be a musician!"
Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis tells ABC News Radio that while Bruce isn't always remembered for his singing, his unique vocal style helped define Cream's sound. "'Sunshine of Your Love,' 'White Room,' both of those songs have Jack Bruce in the lead vocal," notes DeCurtis. "Not only was he a great bass player, but he was a powerful, very emotional singer and he gave that group both a muscular sound and also a muscular delivery in the vocals."
DeCurtis says that Bruce, along with Baker and Clapton, laid the groundwork for the music of the seventies. "Led Zeppelin, for example, is a band that was influenced by Cream," he says. "They defined a style of rock-and-roll that made you take rock-and-roll seriously because these guys were amazing players. They weren't just teenagers bashing around."
In a statement on his Facebook page, Eric Clapton said, "He was a great musician and composer, and a tremendous inspiration to me."
In a statement to ABC News Radio, Rush's Geddy Lee said, "The sudden passing of Jack Bruce is terribly sad news. One of the greatest rock bassists to ever live and a true and profound inspiration to countless musicians. He was one of my first bass heroes and was a major influence on my playing and my music. My heartfelt condolences to his family and fans."
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