Born in Scotland in 1943, Jack Bruce was musical at an early age. After dropping out of college, he toured with bands like Blues Incorporated and the Graham Bond Organisation, then joined the legendary rock band Cream as its singer and bassist. Bruce wrote and sang most of Cream's songs, including "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room." When the band broke up after a successful two-year run, he released albums and collaborated with other musicians, launching a solo career that has lasted more than 40 years. Bruce died in 2014 at the age of 71.
John "Jack" Symon Asher Bruce, better known as Jack Bruce, was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland on May 14, 1943. His parents were poor—his mother worked two jobs to put him through elementary school—and they moved frequently; Bruce had attended 14 schools by the time he was in high school. He began playing jazz bass in his teens, and attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music on a cello scholarship. He dropped out because the school wouldn't allow him to play jazz.
After leaving school, Bruce traveled around England and Italy. He joined his first big band, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, in 1962, as the bassist. One year later, he left to join forces with Graham Bond in what would become the Graham Bond Organisation. However, he was soon forced out by drummer Ginger Baker because of both personal and musical conflicts.
Marvin Gaye offered Bruce a spot touring with his U.S.-based band, but Bruce turned it down, citing his impending marriage. It turned out to be a fortuitous decision: He instead joined John Mayall's Blues Breakers, where he met Eric Clapton. In 1966, Bruce joined Cream with Clapton and former Blues Incorporated bandmate Ginger Baker. Bruce wrote and sang most of the band's songs, including "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room," and their 1968 double album, Wheels of Fire, became the first double album to go platinum. Cream broke up later in 1968, and Bruce went solo.
Even before Cream's break-up, Bruce began recording his own material. After the group disbanded, he began collaborating with other musicians, playing in styles ranging from classical to hard rock to world music. He released his first solo album in 1969, and his second, a jazz album, shortly thereafter. He went on an American tour with one of his own bands, and also joined a series of short-lived groups, including Lifetime, with John McLaughlin, Tony Williams and Larry Young; and the band West, Bruce & Laing, with Leslie West and Corky Laing.
Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Bruce organized and joined musicians around the world, in addition to recording solo material. He did session work with Lou Reed and Frank Zappa; played at the Guitar Legends festival with Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Steve Cropper; and toured with several versions of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band. In 1993, Bruce and the other members of Cream were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2005, Bruce, Baker and Clapton reunited for a Cream reunion tour, and Bruce received the Bass Player Lifetime Achievement Award. The following year, at the Grammy Awards, Bruce accepted a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of Cream.
Bruce was married four times. He married his fourth wife, Margrit Seyffer, in 1979, and she became his manager in 2003. Bruce published his autobiography, Composing Himself, in 2010.
In 2003, Bruce was diagnosed with liver cancer. He underwent a liver transplant, and although his body initially rejected the new organ, he ultimately recovered. Bruce died on October 25, 2014 at the age of 71.
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