Star in US and UK
Joe Cocker’s voice was the stuff of real legends on the sound-tracks of movies, theme songs of TV classics, and advertising, as well as on stage and on records and CDs.
Award winning, multi-platinum singer/songwriter Joe died of lung cancer at his home in Crawford, Colorado, on December 22, aged 70.
His hoarse, bluesy voice and his approach to singing with the classic With A Little Help From My Friends, and Unchain My Heart, plus You Are So Beautiful – one of the best love ballads ever recorded, have become standards.
Joe was a working class Brit with humble beginnings from Sheffield. He was a cover band man specialising in Ray Charles, one of his idols (the other being The King of Skiffle, British pop star, Lonnie Donegan). He fronted several bands, including the Cavaliers, Vance Arnold and the Avengers, Joe Cocker’s Big Blues, and the band with whom he’d record his first minor hit, Marjorine, The Grease Band. He entered the American consciousness as a solo artist after cutting a couple of Beatles tunes, one for Decca in 1964, “I’ll Cry Instead” under the name Vance Arnold. It flopped. The re-arrangement of The Beatles With A Little Help From My Friends featured Jimmy Page on lead guitar, B J Wilson on drums, Tommy Eyre on organ, and Sue and Sunny on backing vocals. It was a Top 10 UK hit for 13 weeks, and went to No.1. It only reached No.68 on the US charts, first time around. The gold-selling album of the same name fared a bit better, reaching #35 in the U.S.
Cocker’s Woodstock performance was electrifying but The Grease Band dissolved soon after. The Mad Dogs and Englishmen, lead by Leon Russell, served as Cocker’s touring band for the next few years and helped shape his more blues-based sound
He will be remembered for his wildly-animated, sometimes uneven performances, aided by heavy drinking and bouts of depression which did little to stymie the tide of hits from albums like Time and Life and the live album and film Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Cocker’s first U.S. Top 10.
Joe Cocker managed classics like “Feelin’ Alright (used in Denzel Washington’s hit film Flight) and the Top 25 hit High Time We Went, from A&M Records album, Joe Cocker, in 1972.
The 1982 soundtrack for the film An Officer and a Gentleman. and a song recorded with Jennifer Warnes, the No.1 international smash Up Where We Belong won them the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo and the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Joe was back on top with more songs appearing on soundtracks, and major selling, more full-bodied production albums, including: Unchain My Heart, One Night of Sin, Cocker, Civilized Man and Sheffield Steel.
He continued to release an album every two to three years, from 1992’s Night Calls to 2012’s Fire It Up, and one last Top 40 UK hit with 1992’s Feels Like Forever. He was at a number of tributes and commemorative events, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and the inauguration concert of George H W Bush. He also appeared in The Beatles tribute film, Across the Universe as lead singer of Come Together. Other awards including an OBE and a nomination for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have followed.
Joe is survived by his wife of 27 years, Pam Baker.