Cream's biggest hit inspired by Hendrix's debut in England
Cream LP cover
Sunshine of Your Love by the British rock band Cream is perhaps their best known song that spawned numerous covers across genres over the years.
The song's origins lie with Cream bassist Jack Bruce and his distinctive bass riff which he developed after attending Jimi Hendrix's first London concert at the Saville Theatre on 29 January 1967. After the riff had taken roots, guitarist Eric Clapton and beat poet Pete Brown later contributed to the song.
Clapton elaborated in an interview:
"He [Hendrix] played this gig that was blinding. I don't think Jack [Bruce] had really taken him in before [...] and when he did see it that night, after the gig he went home and came up with the riff. It was strictly a dedication to Jimi. And then we wrote a song on top of it."
The song became Cream's highest charting American single and one of the most popular singles of 1968. On top of that, Sunshine of Your Love earned the title of the best-selling record at the time for the Atlantic group of labels.
Pete Brown wrote the opening line after being up all night working with Bruce and watching the sun come up. Brown told later:
"We had been working all night and had gotten some stuff done. We had very little time to write for Cream, but we happened to have some spare time and Jack came up with the riff. He was playing stand-up bass, and he said, 'What about this then?' and played the famous riff. I looked out the window and wrote down, 'It's getting near dawn.' That's how it happened."
Cream performed Sunshine of Your Love regularly in concert and issued several live recordings. In turn, Hendrix performed faster instrumental versions of the song which he often dedicated to Cream.
Hendrix's engineer and producer Eddie Kramer recalled:
"Jimi loved Cream, he loved Eric Clapton. It was a fabulous song, he loved to play it, and he would just rip into it whenever the mood hit him."