Pete Brown has been involved with music for a long time; as part of a songwriting team with Jack Bruce; as a performer; and latterly, as a producer. Although absent from mainstream British music as an artist since his last major label record in 1970, Pete Brown has never really gone away.
He is perhaps best known for writing the lyrics for many of Cream's major hits, including ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’, ‘White Room’, ‘I Feel Free’ and ‘Politician’. Many of these songs are now standards, and have become hits in recent years for artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Belinda Carlisle and David Bowie.
Concurrent with his rise as a producer, Brown worked as a sideman on vocals and percussion with leaders as diverse as B.B. King, musical director Calvin Owens, and South African jazz pianist Mervyn Afrika. In 1998, he worked with U.S soul/funk man David Hadley, who was also a member of Brown's one-time band, The Interoceters.
In the 1990s , Brown released two well-received CDs with his longtime song writing partner, Phil Ryan; Ardours Of The Lost Rake; and Coals To Jerusalem, followed by two long tours. Road of Cobras is the latest in a long line of collaborative ventures. In addition to his work with Ryan, Brown has been very involved in both Film and Poetry.
Film and Television
Encouraged to write screenplays by Martin Scorcese, who has often used Cream songs in his films. Brown's first script was commissioned by the BBC's Kenneth Trodd in 1978. His first feature was the animated Felix The Movie for U.S independent Don Oriolo, released theatrically in 1990 and subsequently sold to the Disney Channel. In 1984, he co-wrote the dramatic links for the Rolling Stones video album Rewind with director Julien Temple. It remains one of the best selling videos ever. In 1989 he was commissioned by Yorkshire TV's Keith Richardson to write Framed, the dramatized biography of Scottish rock legend Alex Harvey. This remains an ongoing project. Brown also appears in the forthcoming John Brewer documentary Cream.
Pete Brown became one of Britain's only professional poets in 1960, living from performances of his own work until taking up songwriting in 1966. "Hearing a recording by Kenneth Patchen, one of the first Jazz and Poetry records, was a seminal experience for me as it opened un-thought of avenues for poetry and music," says Brown, who also sites other early influences as Dylan Thomas and Lorca.
"I started writing when I was 14 and, in 1960, when I was just 19, I turned professional. In other words, I stopped having day jobs. After that, I just wrote and performed. My first major collaboration was with Mike Horovitz's New Departures Group (1960 - 65), which included performances with musicians such as Dick Heckstall-Smith."
Brown worked with Mike Horovitz in the New Departures touring poetry and jazz group till forming his own breakaway group, The First Real Poetry Band, including guitarist John McLaughlin in 1967.
In 1961 Brown and Horovitz represented Britain at the Paris Biennale. They took part in the famed Albert Hall poetry readings of 1965 and 1966 alongside William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Robert Graves. Brown then toured Britain with Ginsberg and Robert Creely.
Danah Zohar, writing about New Departures Live said, "It's like dropping in on a first-rate party at an old friend's and finding yourself entertained by a warm, wonderful bunch of incredibly talented troubadours."
Keyboardist and song writer Phil Ryan’s association with Pete Brown goes back to 1970 when Ryan joined Piblokto for a brief stint.
In 1972 Ryan joined legendary Welsh rockers Man and played with them on and off after their most commercially successful time in the mid to late 1970s. In between he has played with another band hailing from the valleys, The Neutrons.
After Man's breakup, he started working with Pete Brown again, and continued to work with him despite moving to Denmark. They collaborated for 12 years, on various projects and issued two Pete Brown/Phil Ryan albums on Brown's Interocetor label: Ardours of the Lost Rake and Coals to Jerusalem, a compilation of which was issued more recently as The Land That Cream Forgot.