This is about depression and hopelessness, but the setting is an empty apartment. The lyrics were written by a beat poet named Pete Brown, who was a friend of Cream bass player Jack Bruce. Brown also wrote the words for "Sunshine Of Your Love" and "I Feel Free."
Pete Brown: "It was a miracle it worked, considering it was me writing a monologue about a new flat." (thanks, Damien - sydney, Australia)
Jack Bruce wrote the music. He was inspired by a cycling tour that he took in France.
Upon its release, Wheels Of Fire was given a terrible review by Rolling Stone magazine. They claim that "White Room" has "The exact same lines for guitar, bass and drums" as "Tales Of Brave Ulysses." If you listen to both songs, they are somewhat similar, but nowhere near the level they claim. (thanks, Geoff - Lake Arrowhead, CA)
Eric Clapton used a Wah-Wah pedal on his guitar. He got the idea from Jimi Hendrix.
On their last tour before the band broke up, Cream opened most of their shows with this song. When Cream did a reunion tour in 2005, they played it near the end of the sets.
Clapton refused to play this after leaving Cream until 1985, when Paul Shaffer urged him to play it while he was sitting in with the band on Late Night With David Letterman. That same year, Clapton played it at Live Aid.
This was released as a single after Cream had broken up. It did better in the US than in England, since Cream had caught on in the States.
In 2000, Apple Computer used this in commercials for their white iMacs. While the song does have the word "white" in the title, the subject matter is not good for selling computers.
Jack Bruce recorded a new, Latin-influenced version on his 2001 album Shadows In The Air. Clapton played on this as well as his new recording of "Sunshine Of Your Love."
Clapton performed this in 1999 for the album Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live From Central Park. Clapton and Crow were an item for a time in the '90s.