Jack Bruce found his calling early in life: Instead of just playing bass, he defined it, carving out a legacy that will endure as long as we keep archives of recorded music. Bruce passed away from liver disease on October 25, 2014, at the age of 71. His passing was announced on his website and Facebook page by his family: “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.”
Vernon Reid, guitarist in Bruce’s most recent band, Spectrum Road, responded to news of Bruce’s passing by tweeting, “Every guitarist should pick up their guitar & play the opening riff to Sunshine of Your Love before the sun goes down today!” Reid was, of course, referencing Bruce’s iconic, swaggering—yet still rock-solid—riff from the 1967 hit he performed as vocalist and bassist alongside Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in the legendary power trio Cream. But as influential as Bruce’s burly bass lines and rich, instantly identifiable vocal vibrato are in the classic-rock repertoire, he was about a lot more than that. His songs formed the soundtrack for a generation and inspired countless musicians.
Bruce’s stint with Cream earned him a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, but his brushes with fame came even before that when he played with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Manfred Mann. He also released some 14 solo records over a 45-year span, including this year’s Silver Rails. His collaborations were wonderfully eclectic, with album and touring credits reading like a who’s who of top musicians from rock, jazz, R&B, fusion, and world music—including John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, Leslie West, Lou Reed, Frank Zappa, Mick Taylor, Gary Moore, Rory Gallagher, Peter Frampton, Allan Holdsworth, and Robin Trower. Bruce also toured as part of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band for several years, and reunited with Cream for several massively anticipated shows in 2005.
As a bassist, Jack led by example, demonstrating that a bass player could write, sing, and drive a band with melody, intense energy, and finesse all at the same time. He was and always will be considered electric-bass royalty. His influence reached far and wide, including with his former bandmate Eric Clapton, who called him “a tremendous inspiration.” Bruce is considered one of the founding fathers of rock bass guitar, and his playing should be studied again and again. Thank you, Jack, for keeping the masses rocking, your friends laughing, and the bass players of the world guessing. Godspeed, Mr. Bruce.
Plus, enjoy the moving acoustic tribute Eric Clapton recorded for his longtime bandmate and lifelong friend.