The late, great Rock and Blues singer John Robert “Joe” Cocker, OBE sadly died of lung cancer on 22 December 2014 in Crawford, Colorado. Born 20 May 1944 In, Crookes, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Cocker received his nickname of Joe either from playing a childhood game called “Cowboy Joe”, or from a local window cleaner named Joe. Cocker’s main musical influences growing up were Ray Charles and Lonnie Donegan. Cocker’s first experience singing in public was at age 12 in his brother Victor’s skiffle group. In 1960, along with three friends, Cocker formed his first group, the Cavaliers. Sadly the Cavaliers broke up after a year and Cocker left school to become an apprentice gasfitter while simultaneously pursuing a career in music
He was known for his gritty voice, spasmodic body movement in performance, and cover versions of popular songs, particularly those of the Beatles.In 1961, under the stage name Vance Arnold, Cocker continued his career with a new group, Vance Arnold and the Avengers. Who mostly played in the pubs of Sheffield, performing covers of Chuck Berry and Ray Charles songs. Cocker developed an interest in blues music particularly John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Howlin’ Wolf.In 1963, they supported the Rolling Stones at Sheffield City Hall. In 1964, Cocker released his first single, a cover of the Beatles’ “I’ll Cry Instead” (with Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page playing guitars)
In 1966, Cocker teamed up with Chris Stainton, to form the Grease Band.” Like the Avengers, Cocker’s group mostly played in pubs in and around Sheffield. The Grease Band came to the attention of Denny Cordell, the producer of Procol Harum, the Moody Blues and Georgie Fame. Cocker recorded the single “Marjorine” without the Grease Band and Cordell set Cocker up with a residency at the Marquee Club in London, and a “new” Grease Band was formed with Stainton and keyboardist Tommy Eyre. After minor success in the United States with the single “Marjorine”, Cocker released “With a Little Help from My Friends”, another Beatles cover, which, many years later, was used as the opening theme for The Wonder Years, which features lead guitar from Jimmy Page,
During his United States tour, Cocker played at several large festivals, including the Newport Rock Festival and the Denver Pop Festival And the Woodstock festival, performing several songs, including “Delta Lady”, “Something’s Comin’ On”, “Let’s Go Get Stoned”, “I Shall Be Released”, and “With a Little Help from My Friends. Directly after Woodstock, Cocker released his second album, Joe Cocker! For which Cocker also covered the Beatles “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” and “Something” and the Leon Russell song, “Delta Lady”. In August 1969, Cocker performed at the Isle of Wight Festival at Wootton Bridge, Isle of Wight, England.
in 1970 Joe Cocker toured America With a group of more than 30 musicians, including pianist and bandleader Leon Russell, three drummers, and backing vocalists Rita Coolidge and Claudia Lennear. the new band was christened “Mad Dogs & Englishmen”, after the Noël Coward song of the same name. Cocker’s music evolved into a more bluesy type of rock, compared to that of the Rolling Stones. Despite having several hits including “Cry Me a River”, “Feelin’ Alright” and “The Letter”, the pace of the tour was exhausting and his family became increasingly concerned with his deteriorating physical and mental health. Russell and Cocker both had personal problems; Cocker became depressed and began drinking excessively. Cocker also wrote the overture played by the UK Prime Minister Edward Heath on the occasion the Prime Minister famously conducted a live orchestra while in office. In 1971, Cocker released “High Time We Went”.
After touring the United States, he Toured Europe, playing Italy and Germany before returning to the United States and Australia in 1972 where he and six members of his entourage were arrested in Adelaide for possession of marijuana and he was Charged with Assault the next day, in Melbourne, after a brawl at the Commodore Chateau Hotel, and the Australian Federal Police gave Cocker 48 hours to leave the country. This sparked a debate about the use and legalisation of marijuana in Australia, and gained Cocker the nickname “the Mad Dog”. In 1974, Cocker released the album “I can Stand A Little Rain”which contained a cover of Dennis Wilson and Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful” and in 1975 he released a second album , Jamaica Say You Will. In late 1975, he contributed vocals on a number of the tracks on Bo Diddley’s The 20th Anniversary of Rock ‘n’ Roll all-star album and also recorded the album “Stingray” in Kingston, Jamaica. In 1976, Cocker performed “Feelin’ Alright” on Saturday Night Live. For which John Belushi joined him onstage doing his famous impersonation of Cocker’s stage movements.
In 1977 Cocker embarked on a tour of New Zealand, Australia, and South America. He then recorded a new album Luxury you Can Afford before touring North America in 1978. In 1979, Cocker joined the “Woodstock in Europe” tour, which featured musicians like Arlo Guthrie and Richie Havens who had played at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. He also performed in New York’s Central Park and also toured Europe and appeared on the German television recording amphitheatre, Rockpalast, the first of many performances on the show. In 1982,
Cocker recorded two songs with the jazz group the Crusaders on their album Standing Tall. One song, and “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today”, which was nominated for a Grammy Award. Cocker then released a new reggae-influenced album, Sheffield Steel, recorded with the Compass Point All Stars. Then In 1982, Cocker recorded the duet “Up Where We Belong” with Jennifer Warnes for the soundtrack of the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman. Which was an international hit, and won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo and an Academy Award for Best Original Song. He also performed “You Are So Beautiful” with Ray Charles in a television tribute to the musician and joined Ronnie Lane’s 1983 tour to raise money for the London-based organisation Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis, with other Musicians such as Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Chris Stainton.
In 1983 Cocker was arrested by Austrian police Shortly after the incident, he released his ninth studio album, Civilized Man. His next album Cocker was dedicated to his mother, Madge, who had recently died which featured the song “You Can Leave Your Hat On” which was featured in the 1986 film 9½ Weeks. He also released the 1987 album Unchain My Heart. In 1988, he performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall and appeared on The Tonight Show. After Barclay James Harvest and Bob Dylan, Cocker was the first to give rock concerts in the German Democratic Republic, in East Berlin and Dresden. The venue, the Blüherwiese, next to the Rudolf–Harbig–Stadion, bears the vernacular name Cockerwiese (Cocker meadow) today. Healso performed for President George H. W. Bush at an inauguration concert in 1989. In 1992, he released a cover of Bryan Adams’ “Feels Like Forever”. In 1992, Joe Cocker teamed with Canadian rocker Sass Jordan to sing “Trust in Me”, which was featured on The Bodyguard soundtrack and was nominated for Best British Mail At the 1993 Brit Awards. Cocker also performed the opening set at Woodstock ’94 as one of the few alumni who played at the original Woodstock Festival in 1969. In 2002 Cocker performed “With A Little Help From My Friends” accompanied by Phil Collins on drums and Queen guitarist Brian May at the Party at the Palace concert in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
In 2007, Cocker appeared in the film Across the Universe, as the lead singer on another Beatles’ hit, “Come Together” and was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours list for services to music and was awarded a bronze Sheffield Legends plaque in his hometown. In 2009 Cocker toured North American and sang the vocals on “Little Wing” for the Carlos Santana album, Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time, and in 2010, Cocker toured Europe promoting his new album Hard Knocks. In 2011, Cocker took part in a benefit concert for Cornell Dupree at B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York. Dupree played on two Cocker albums: Stingray (1976) and Luxury You Can Afford (1978). Recently while performing at Madison Square Garden, fellow musician Billy Joel remarked that Cocker was “not very well right now” and asked that he be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The two living Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, were among those who paid tribute to the singer, who was “without doubt the greatest rock/soul singer ever to come out of Britain.” And was ranked No. 97 on Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest singers list.