Pete Brown, the British poet and singer who helped co-write some of Cream’s most enduring songs — including “White Room” and “Sunshine of Your Love” — has died at the age of 82.
Brown’s death Friday following “a courageous battle with cancer” was announced on his official Facebook page.
“Brown started his artistic career as a Beat Poet in the late 1950s,” the statement notes. “By the mid 1960s he had sold out The Royal Albert Hall with both his British and American contemporaries including Alan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael Horowitz at the poetry happening Wholly Communion.”
Brown’s work with the First Real Poetry Band, featuring legendary jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, brought him to the attention of Cream drummer Ginger Baker, who enlisted Brown as a writing partner ahead of the supergroup’s 1966 debut album Fresh Cream. Brown instead found better chemistry working with bassist Jack Bruce, first resulting in the single “I Feel Free.”
Over the course of Cream’s next three albums, Brown continued to contribute lyrics to what became some of Cream’s best-known songs: “Sunshine of Your Love,” “SWALBR,” “White Room,” “Politician,” “Deserted Cities of the Heart,” and “Doing That Scrapyard Thing.” Both “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” were later named to Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
As Brown later revealed, the “white room” was where he lived after a period of semi-homelessness, and where he both kicked his drug and alcohol issues as well as honed his poetry toward songwriting.
“Jack had more or less the music of ‘White Room,’ and we tried a few lyrics, and none of them had worked,” Brown said in a documentary about the song. “And then I thought about this poem that I had and it was an eight-page poem, and I thought if I cut that down to one page, it might be the right thing for it.”
“While he continued to work with Jack Bruce for another 45 years after the breakup of Cream in 1968, with songs including ‘Folk Song’ and ‘Theme for an Imaginary Western,’ he also pursued a music career in his own right as a singer/songwriter, becoming a cult figure with bands including Piblokto, The Battered Ornaments, Bond and Brown (with Graham Bond and Dick Heckstall-Smith), The Interoceters and Psoulchedelia,” the statement continued.
The family of the late Jack Bruce tweeted Saturday, “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. We extend our sincere condolences to Pete’s wife Sheridan and Pete’s children as well as all his family and friends.”