Jack Bruce, one of popular music’s most adept and ambitious bassists, died yesterday at age 71 in his home in Suffolk, England. Bruce’s family first made the announcement of his death, due to liver disease, on his website. Born John Symon Asher Bruce in Lanarkshire, Scotland on May 14, 1943, he is survived by four children, one granddaughter and his wife, Margrit.
Bruce will presumably be most widely remembered for his work with Cream, the revolutionary blues-rock trio he formed with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in 1966. In addition to his singing and songwriting, Bruce’s virtuosic bass playing defined the sound of the group and expanded the boundaries of the genre throughout Cream’s two fiery years together before breaking up in late 1968.
Following up on the jazz and blues he’d played in the early/mid-’60s (with groups like Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers), Bruce embarked upon an adventurous post-Cream career that combined those genres with rock, classical and more. After the release of his first solo album, 1969’s Songs for a Tailor, Bruce teamed up with guitarist John McLaughlin, organist Larry Young and drummer Tony Williams to form the jazz fusion group Lifetime, before returning to the blues with various groups, including West, Bruce & Laing and Jack Bruce & Friends. All the while, Bruce continued to release solo albums while maintaining a career as an in-demand session musician, notably performing on Lou Reed’s Berlin and Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe (’) (which he co-wrote with Zappa). In 1993, Bruce was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Cream, which reunited for several shows in 2005. Bruce’s last album, Silver Rails, his first solo album in nearly a decade, was released in March. For more on Bruce’s own thoughts on that album as well as his career and legacy as a whole, see here.