Remembering Joe Cocker…
There is a distinct fear that this blog will soon read like the Telegraph obituaries page such is the rate of artists departing this life for a show in the great gig in the sky. John Robert Cocker, or ‘Joe’ to you and I has died from lung cancer at the age of seventy.
Yorkshire born and bred, Joe Cocker was a truly gifted singer with a most unique style of performance. His gritty vocals were a match for any American blues artist and he followed that tradition of white, English-born musicians who created the British blues boom of the late sixties. Cocker’s big break came with the reworking of The Beatles “With a Little Help from My Friends”, his second Beatles cover which featured Jimmy Page on guitar. This cover took him to the stage of the 1969 Woodstock Festival and a frenzied performance which sealed his fame and became his hallmark style.
Cocker led a turbulent life, like so many others of his era the seventies proved especially difficult. Heroin and alcoholism plunged him into debt until 1982, when, along with Jennifer Warnes he recorded the hit song “Up Where We Belong” for the movie ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ starring Richard Gere. This took him on stadium tours across the States, playing again with the likes of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins. Grammy nominations followed and in 2007 he was awarded the OBE.
The point to these posts, I suppose is to both mourn a loss and celebrate a contribution. Cocker’s generation hit the ground running at a unique moment in twentieth century culture, that moment was there for the taking and he, along with Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison et al, took it. There was, as we all now know, a price to pay for that exuberance but that creative energy and ‘live for today’ attitude created some of the greatest music we shall ever hear.
Cocker was a blues singer first and foremost, he enjoyed a second wind in 1980s America but he should be remembered for being a kid from Sheffield who got a chance and rung every drop out of it. When the vacuous Twitter hashtag campaign #ripjoe subsides those of us who love the genre he was a part of will remember his role with fondness.
Categories: The Music Lounge