Pete Brown

Ben Beaumont-Thomas “Pete Brown, countercultural poet, singer and Cream lyricist, dies aged 82”
Martin Kielty "Cream Lyricist Pete Brown Dead at 82"


Brown will perhaps best be remembered for his longstanding creative partnership with Bruce, which began in 1965 and lasted until the latter’s death in 2014. Brown was invited by drummer Ginger Baker to help finish the debut single by Cream, the psych-rock band also featuring Bruce and Eric Clapton. Brown would go on to write lyrics for Cream songs such as their first Top 20 hit I Feel Free, the hippy anthem Sunshine of Your Love, and White Room, its darkly tripped-out lyrics a source of fascination to generations of listeners. Dance the Night Away, meanwhile, was inspired by “sex and dancing [which] anchored me a great deal and got me through that time when I was having panic attacks” in the wake of a bad drugs experience, he later explained.

But Brown’s career long predated Cream and he would go on to have numerous separate creative projects. Born in Surrey in 1940, he began writing poetry in his teens, and became an important proponent of British beat poetry, including in a partnership with Mike Horovitz – they recited their work at the Royal Albert Hall in 1965 alongside beat poetry icons such as Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Brown started to combine his work in live performance with musicians, including a group with Horovitz, New Departures; another partner was folk guitarist Davey Graham.

Brown formed the First Real Poetry Band in the early 1960s, delivering poetry in front of a quartet of jazz musicians who included guitarist John McLaughlin (later one of British jazz’s most esteemed figures for his work with electric-period Miles Davis), and held down a jazz poetry residency at London’s Marquee Club. After his work with Cream, and an increasing embrace of singing, came a new band playing psychedelic jazz and blues, Pete Brown and the Battered Ornaments, though he was edged out of the lineup after the 1969 album A Meal You Can Shake Hands With in the Dark.

Next came the band Piblokto!, lasting from 1969 to 1971 with a shifting lineup, resulting in two LPs much-admired by fans of British psychedelia: Things May Come and Things May Go but the Art School Dance Goes on For Ever, and Thousands on a Raft.


Martin Scorsese was among his many admirers, deploying Brown-penned Cream songs in films such as Goodfellas and Casino. “Pete was a great songwriter,” he said in the trailer for an as-yet-unreleased documentary about Brown. “Whenever the lyrics are repeated in my head … these images stay with me.”

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