Cream - A Spotlight on Music's Original Power Trio

Author: Jim Hofman

Cream, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, is one of the most influential bands of all time. Three elite musicians came together in the spring of 1966 came together to form a band that can be best described as monumentally groundbreaking, even to this day. Let's take a closer look at why Cream is so enduring and influential...


Cream: The Formation

Cream is the greater of three individual parts. Founded by drummer Ginger Baker, the band also boasts the immense talents of multi instrumentalist and vocalist Jack Bruce, along with legendary guitar virtuoso and vocalist Eric Clapton.

These three musicians had impressive legacies even before the formation of Cream. Baker and Bruce performed together in the Graham Bond Organization, a jazz fusion band that wowed British audiences in the early and mid sixties. Both performed in other influential English groups of the day, crossing paths with many world class musicians, including Eric Clapton. Before joining forces with Baker and Bruce, Clapton was a key member of both The Yardbirds and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, honing his guitar skills influenced by the great American bluesmen.

By early 1966, Baker, Bruce, and Clapton were both feeling constricted in their respective bands. Baker approached Clapton about creating a new three piece group, and Clapton quickly suggested Jack Bruce as the third member, having crossed paths with the brilliant bass player on the London musical scene. Baker, while initially hesitant due to some ongoing personality conflicts with Bruce, relented to Clapton's suggestion and the band was born.

The Chemistry of Cream

The musical chemistry between the three members is unmistakable and undeniable. In fact, the name Cream was chosen to represent each members standing as the cream of the crop at their respective instrument. Over the years, Ginger Baker has commented that playing with Bruce and Clapton was easy because he had an almost telepathic sense of what they would play next.

Initially, personal chemistry between the three helped propel the music. However, grueling tour schedules and squabbles over songwriting credits let to a strain in relationships, particularly between Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. Clapton, almost as strong willed as the other two, was continually thrust into the role of peacemaker. Compounding the situation was the fact that all three men have extremely strong musical directions, with each wanting to be in control. Substance abuse problems afflicting all three certainly didn't help, and a break up was inevitable.

Their shelf life lasted a mere two and a half years, from the spring of 1966 through November, 1968. During that time period, they toured relentlessly in Europe and the United States, building their reputation with their virtuoso performances and long, extended jams. Their style was influenced by jazz and blues music, and Clapton himself refers to Cream as a jazz rock fusion band, which is about a correct a moniker as any. Baker is a jazz drummer by trade, and to this day recoils at being referred to as a rock drummer.

During their life, the band recorded four landmark albums: Fresh Cream, their debut, in 1966, followed by Disraeli Gears in 1967. Wheels of Fire was released in 1968, and finally the aptly titled Goodbye in 1969, a few months after their farewell performance in November, 1968.

Summary

A band that is greater than the sum of its three parts, Cream continues to influence bands even today. With their unique blend of rock, jazz, and blues, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Eric Clapton left an indelible mark on the world of music.
There is a lot more to the story of Cream. To learn more about this groundbreaking band, including their reunions and their relationships today, visit us at: http://www.squidoo.com/cream-power-trio

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