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Backstage Pass: Bask in the 'Sunshine' with Jack Bruce, Part I

After Cream released "Sunshine of Your Love," everyone from Blood, Sweat and Tears to Jimi Hendrix took a crack at covering it. On the surface, it was a simple blues song. But no one ever managed to capture the magic of the original riff written by Cream bassist Jack Bruce.

After Cream released “Sunshine Of Your Love” in September 1968, every band with access to a record player immediately put the song in their set.

On the surface, it was nothing more than a simple blues in the key of D. But no one ever got it right; no one ever captured the magic of the original. Not Jimi Hendrix, not Blood, Sweat & Tears, not the Goo Goo Dolls, nor any of the dozens of other major artists who covered the song.

When Cream bassist Jack Bruce wrote that riff, he created one of the most enduring licks in rock history. It is the song the Scottish-born musician is best known for, but it hardly represents a career that has spanned over four decades.

Jack Symon Asher Bruce has immersed himself in blues, jazz, bebop, fusion, rock, world and experimental music. He has worked with some of the most gifted musicians around including Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Simon Phillips, Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Gary Moore and Robin Trower. He has pushed the limits of electric bass playing by bringing to the instrument a jazz sensibility grounded in acoustic bass techniques.

Back in the early ’60s, when he began playing with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, he had no sense of where he was going or what he wanted to do. Little did Jack know that in 1962 — with future Cream member Ginger Baker playing alongside him in Korner’s band — he was merely taking the first steps on a musical odyssey that would continue to this day.

“My ambition was to be a pioneer. I wanted to extend the boundaries of whatever music I was involved in at the time. If I was playing jazz, it would be sort of free jazz; I wouldn’t play straight ahead bebop or something as a rule. It would be more free. If it was blues, it was taking it out to another thing. You know, a pop song, trying to find new ways of writing pop songs.”

Here is Part I of our interview with the legendary Jack Bruce.

Goldmine: Did you have any sense that your career would take you in so many directions? Did you specifically want to be involved in blues and jazz and fusion and rock?

Jack Bruce: It started off just wanting to be involved in jazz really, and then, it just grew out of that. It wasn’t any big master plan, you know.

GM: If it had worked out that you could have found a permanent band, would you have remained with the same group of players?

JB: If you’re lucky enough to find the right kind of band that you can do that with. It’s very unusual really for bands to last as long as I’ve been playing. There are a few, mainly people like Duke Ellington or Count Basie or something; those kinds of bands, they stuck together. But then again, some of them would leave, some will rejoin and all of that, you know. It’s just been a kind of a journey, and things have come along, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do them. But, I’d say there was a certain amount of planning at points, but it was also just sort of fate, if you like.

GM: If you listen to your work with Alexis Korner and then what you did when you went on to play with Graham Bond, there is a huge leap in your sound and your style. You changed from acoustic bass to electric bass, and that’s obviously a major jump. But your whole approach seems so much more well defined.

JB: Yeah, I’m sure that’s very true. The very first things on there (the Can You Follow? CD set), I was 19 years old, so I was trying to find what direction to go in. So, I was very much just cutting my teeth on the instrument as it were. And even by Graham Bond, I think I was beginning to get my own direction as a bass player, you know. That was just also the very beginning of it.