Pete Brown, a British Beat poet who wrote the lyrics to songs by the rock supergroup Cream, including the hits “White Room,” “I Feel Free,” and “Sunshine of Your Love,” and who spent nearly five years after the band’s breakup who worked for decades with Jack Bruce, the singer and bassist, passed away Friday at his home in Hastings, on England’s south east coast. He turned 82.
His manager, Peter Conway, said the cause was cancer.
Mr. Brown entered Cream’s circle at the request of Ginger Baker, the band’s drummer. They knew each other because Mr. Brown performed his poetry backed by jazz musicians and Mr. Baker had his start with jazz combos; Mr. Baker asked Mr. Brown for help with the lyrics to the group’s debut single, “Wrapping Paper”, which preceded the release of “Fresh Cream”, their first album, in 1966.
mr. Brown soon discovered a career-long writing partner in Mr. Bruce, whose fluid and propulsive playing provided a counterpoint to Mr. Baker’s explosive drumming and the guitar pyrotechnics of Cream’s third member, Eric Clapton.
In a short documentary about the making of “White Room”, which was shown on Dutch television in 2018, Mr Brown recalled: “It became clear that Jack and I had chemistry, and when we played ‘I Feel Free’ wrote, what a big hit, so everybody went, ‘OK, that’s a team, let it roll.’”
Mr. Brown did not provide the lyrics to all of Cream’s songs, but he was primarily the group’s lyricist. On the second album, “Disraeli Gears” (1967), he wrote the lyrics to “Sunshine of Your Love”, a collaboration with Mr. bruce and mr. Clapton, as well as “Dance the Night Away” and two other songs.
‘White Room’, one of four songs he and Mr. Bruce wrote on the band’s third album, ‘Wheels of Fire’ (1968), which rose to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968. It was the second-highest position a Cream single achieved; “Sunshine” peaked at number 5 earlier that year.
“White Room” began as a poem Mr. Brown wrote, inspired by his stay several years earlier in a real white room, in an apartment.
“I was half penniless, half bum, living on people’s floors, and eventually I started making some money writing songs, and the white room was the first place I went,” he told the culture website Please Kill Me in 2022. In the Dutch documentary, he added that he had stopped drinking and doing drugs in the room and decided to become a “songwriter instead of a wandering poet”.
“White Room”, begins with these lines:
In the white room with black curtains near the station
Country with black roofs, no golden sidewalks, tired starlings
Silver horses ran moonbeams into your dark eyes
The dawn smiles upon you when you leave, my satisfaction
I wait in this place where the sun never shines
Wait in this place where the shadows run away from themselvesS
Peter Ronald Brown was born on December 25, 1940 in Surrey, England, while World War II was going on. His parents had moved there after fleeing London during the Blitz. His father, Nathan Brown, whose birth name was Nathan Leibowitz, and his mother, Kitty Cohen, sold shoes.
Peter started writing poems as a teenager, fueled by the work of Dylan Thomas, Federico García Lorca and Gerard Manley Hopkins. But he detoured, at least temporarily, into journalism, which he studied for nine months in 1958 at Polytechnic-Regent Street (now the University of Westminster) in London.
He returned to verse and published his first poem in 1961 in Evergreen Review, the pioneering literary magazine from the United States that filled its pages with work by greats such as Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller and William Burroughs .
In an early poem, “Few,” composed out of fear of nuclear war, Mr. Brown:
Alone and half drunk hopeful
I stumbled into the swamps
at Groenpark station
and found 30 written on the wall.
Startled, I stumbled outside
In the windy blaring Piccadilly night
Surely there must be more of us than that.
In the following years he was a working poet. He was a member of the First Real Poetry Band, which included guitarist John McLaughlin, and had a jazz poetry residency at the Marquee Club in London.
In 1965 he and more than a dozen other poets from around the world, including Mr. Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Michael Horovitz and Andrei Voznesensky, read their work at the International Poetry Incarnation, which opened the Royal Albert Hall in London. filled. On its website, the venue recalled the event as one “where beatniks met the emerging hippie culture”.
Mr. Baker’s cry for help was the start of a long career as a songwriter, first with Cream and then, when Cream broke up after two years, with Mr. Bruce on his solo work. He wrote the lyrics to almost all of Mr. Bruce, from “Songs for a Tailor” (1969) to “Silver Rails” (2014). One of their collaborations, “Theme for an Imaginary Western”, became a staple of the band Mountain’s repertoire.
“I was impressed with Jack,” Mr Brown said in an interview with The Guardian last month. But, he said, “Sometimes we had to rest from each other — two very big personalities in the same room were sometimes no good, and his addictions got in the way.”
Mr. Brown found his own voice as a singer in the decade after Cream broke up. He has performed with the bands Pete Brown & His Battered Ornaments, Piblokoto!, Back to the Front, Flying Tigers and Bond & Brown, which he founded with British rock and blues musician Graham Bond. He also began a long songwriting partnership in the early 1980s with keyboardist Phil Ryan, a former member of Piblokto!, who produced several albums until 2013.
He also helped write most of the songs on ‘Novum’ (2017), Procol Harum’s latest studio album. (He replaced Keith Reid, longtime Procol Harum lyricist, who died this year.)
Mr. Brown’s autobiography, “White Rooms & Imaginary Westerns: On the Road With Ginsberg, Writing for Clapton and Cream — An Anarchic Odyssey” (2010), is being adapted as a documentary by director Mark Aj Waters, but has not yet been completed. . Mr. Brown had recently been working on an album, “Shadow Club”; one of his collaborators was Mr. Bruce’s son, Malcolm, an electric bassist like his father. (Jack Bruce passed away in 2014.)
“We’re naturally attracted to each other,” Mr Brown told The Guardian, adding that he planned to co-write songs with Malcolm Bruce for his next album “as long as I can stay alive for a reasonable amount of time.”
Mr. Brown is survived by his wife, Sheridan MacDonald; his daughter, Jessica Walker; his son, Tad MacDonald; and a grandson.
Even after he started singing, Mr. Brown said, his admiration for Mr. Bruce initially led him to stop singing the Cream songs he had helped write.
“You know, ‘I’m not good enough,'” he told Dutch television. “Then all of a sudden I was like, ‘Okay, I wrote those songs too,’ and I was like, ‘It’s kind of about time I started singing some of these songs.'”