Cream guitarist Jack Bruce dies aged 71

British musician Jack Bruce performs at the 'Zildjian Drummers Achievement Awards' at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London. Picture: AP

British musician Jack Bruce performs at the 'Zildjian Drummers Achievement Awards' at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London. Picture: AP

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FRIENDS and family paid tribute to “all-round legend” Jack Bruce, the Scottish rock icon who died of liver disease yesterday at the age of 71.

The celebrated bassist, who was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2003, was most famous for his work with guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker in 1960s rock group Cream.

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In a statement his family said: “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.”

Bruce’s death was announced on his official website, and confirmed by his publicist Claire Singers last night.

She said: “He died today at his home in Suffolk surrounded by his family.”

Cream sold 35 million albums in just over two years and were awarded the world’s first-ever platinum disc for their LP Wheels Of Fire.

Bruce wrote and sang most of the songs, including I Feel Free, White Room, Politician and perhaps the world’s most performed guitar riff in Sunshine Of Your Love.

The band split in November 1968 at the height of their popularity. Bruce felt he had strayed too far from his ideals and wanted to rediscover his musical and social roots.

Born on 14 May, 1943, in Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire, to musical parents, Bruce began playing the jazz bass in his teens, winning a scholarship to study cello and musical composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Often described as one of the greatest bassists of his generation, Bruce was also trained as a classical cellist and enjoyed a successful solo career as a jazz musician.

Bruce joined his first major band in 1962 in London. This was Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, with whom Charlie Watts, later to join the Rolling Stones, was drummer.

Jack left Korner in 1963 to form a group with organist Graham Bond, guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Ginger Baker. This group became the seminal Graham Bond Organisation. Jack was compelled to leave after three years by Baker, who said his playing was “too busy”.

Bruce joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, where he first met Clapton, followed by Manfred Mann in an ill-advised attempt at commercialism.

After Cream broke up, Bruce began recording solo albums, the first being his influential Songs For A Tailor.

After battling a heroin habit in the 1960s and 1970s, Bruce was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2003.

Rebus author Ian Rankin was among those paying tribute to the Cream bassist on Twitter last night, writing: “Jack Bruce – the cream of Glasgow bass guitarists”.

Singer-songwriter Fish, formally of progressive rock band Marillion, tweeted: “Just heard the sad news that Jack Bruce died. An absolute legend, uncompromising, a wicked sense of humour and a beautiful soul. RIP Jack.”

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