Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cream - An Anatomy of Their Reunions

By Jim Hofman

Cream, the legendary musical power trio featuring Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Eric Clapton, have reunited only a couple of times since their acrimonious break up in 1968. The behind the scenes story is better than any day time soap opera. Their musical chemistry is as intense as their personal relationships and their individual musical directions. All of it adds up to one great story.

Cream is more than the sum of its three parts, those being world class drummer Ginger Baker, bass virtuoso and vocalist Jack Bruce, and the legendary Eric Clapton. Their musical chemistry has always been undeniable, even to the three men themselves. But why have they only reunited briefly in the 40+ years since they broke up? It's a fascinating story to say the least.

Acrimonious Break Up

When Cream originally broke up in 1968, there were numerous bad feelings between the three men. Although a deep underlying affection still existed, squabbles over song writing credits, difficult tour schedules, and personality conflicts had the three barely speaking to one another.

Baker and Clapton worked together again in Blind Faith, a super group which lasted one album and tour. Jack Bruce went his separate way, and the three didn't cross paths until a chance meeting in 1976.

As the story goes, Baker, Bruce, and Clapton all happened to be at the same London record company office early one summer day. Almost eight years had passed since they had spent time together and some of the anger had mellowed. They agreed to spend the afternoon together at Clapton's home. Clapton speaks amusingly about the afternoon, noting the personal chemistry between the three still existed.

Both Baker and Bruce attended Clapton's wedding in 1979, but musically the three kept their distance. Unfortunately, all three were dealing with serious substance abuse problems at the time.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inducts Cream

In early 1993, Cream was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All three members approached the induction ceremony with great caution, with each serving as an intermediary for the other. All three did attend, with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton delivering emotional acceptance speeches. A brief three song reunion followed onstage, the first time Cream had performed live in almost 25 years.

Backstage and later to the press, each member spoke glowingly of the experience. Baker and Bruce went so far as to state they would be willing to tour as Cream. Clapton, while intrigued, was cautious. He was still recovering from the recent death of his son and wasn't quite ready to fully embrace his musical past.

Cream Reunion

By the early 2000's, even the men themselves doubted whether a reunion would ever happen. In 2003, Jack Bruce became seriously ill and almost lost his life. Perhaps this was a catalyst, because after his initial recovery reunion rumors started to surface. Eric Clapton finally confirmed in late 2004 that Cream would indeed reunite in 2005, after a series of rehearsals. Four concerts would be staged at the Royal Albert Hall in London, just after Clapton's 60th birthday.

By all accounts, the six weeks of rehearsals went off without a hitch. Clapton alluded to "one little skirmish" during the first week, but added that each of the three realized how lucky they were to perform as Cream once again. The concerts were a sold out smash success and were filmed for a DVD and television special, both of which received glowing reviews.

New York City Concerts

Bouyed by their successful shows and presented with a lucrative offer, Cream agreed to play three nights in New York that October. During the first show, old animosities surfaced between Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. The shows went on, the music was favorably reviewed, but there was an awkwardness between the three on stage.

Further Reunion Prospects

Depending upon who is asked, the possibility of further Cream reunions is bleak or quite possible. Bruce and Baker performed together at a tribute concert for Baker in late 2008, and Clapton has spoken glowingly of the two. While Jack Bruce has pushed for more reunion dates, Clapton has been less than enthusiastic. Baker, on the other hand, says Cream will not reunite due to the clash with Bruce in New York.

Clapton maintains a heavy performance and travel schedule and has recently delved heavily into his musical past. Jack Bruce continues to write and perform, while Baker still drums while living in retirement in South Africa. Clapton wrote the forward for Bruce's new autobiography and it appears the three are in contact.

Will Cream reunite again? Stay tuned ...

The legendary musical power trio Cream is one of most influential bands of all time. Their combination of jazz, rock, and blues helped pave the way for many musical groups over the last 40 years. Cream's musical chemistry and interpersonal relationships are almost as fascinating as their music. For more information on Cream, visit us at:

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