Poet Pete Brown, best known for writing lyrics for Cream, has died at age 82 following a cancer battle.
The family of late Cream bassist Jack Bruce shared the news in a statement. “We are extremely saddened to learn of the death of Jack’s long-term friend and writing partner Pete Brown, who passed away last night,” they said. “We extend our sincere condolences to Pete’s wife Sheridan and Pete’s children as well as all his family and friends. Love from the Bruce family.”
A statement on Brown’s social media channels also paid tribute to him. “Pete was known to repeat the mantra, ‘I come from a long line of worriers, not warriors.’ One of his other favorite expressions,” it said. “Despite his tendency towards Jewish pessimism, he lived the life of a warrior poet. He was proudly anti-establishment and dedicated his life to his creative endeavors in an uncompromising way.”
Adding that Brown was an animal lover with an “ever-increasing family of cats,” the statement continued: “He was also a loyal and generous friend, and a huge supporter of other musicians, at every stage of their careers. He is survived by his beautiful wife and life partner Sheridan, his daughter, the singer and writer Jessica Walker, and his musician and [restaurateur] son Tad.”
Frequently regarded as the fourth member of Cream, Brown started publishing poetry at the age of 14 and later formed the Real Poetry Band with John McLaughlin. He established himself as a leading beat poet and encountered drummer Ginger Baker through his success. He was hired to co-write for Cream with Baker, before it became clear he worked better with Bruce.
Brown’s contributions to Cream include the classic tracks “White Room,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “I Feel Free,” “Politician” and “Deserted Cities of the Heart.” He continued working with Bruce after the trio split, collaborated with Graham Bond and others, continued to publish and perform poetry, and became involved in writing and producing movies. He continued appearing live with four different British bands.
Listen to Cream’s ‘White Room’
“I like to think that people can still relate to those songs,” Brown told Rolling Stone in 2008 of his Cream work. “I’ve come a long way since then, and I write in different ways. But ‘White Room’ is a state of mind, as well as a description of a particular place and time.”
He added of the band’s legacy: “None of them were particularly beautiful – they weren’t a pop group, as such. But it was quite clear they were good musicians. Even now, in Britain, you have this horrible thing where you have to look right to get anywhere in popular music. Cream were completely against that grain. And there was their experimentation with form, the evolution of what they took from the blues. Before Cream, there were very few improvising rock bands. Psychedelia was rock bands trying to improvise.”
Watch Pete Brown Discuss Writing With Jack Bruce
Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who collaborated with Brown in recent years, paid tribute by tweeting: “Rest in peace my friend. One of the coolest blokes who wrote the best lyrics. It was an honor to write and work with you. My condolences to Pete Brown’s family.”
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