Joe Cocker, British blues rocker, dead at 70
Joe Cocker, the legendary British blues rock singer known for such hits as You Are So Beautiful and his 1969 cover of the Beatles’ With a Little Help from My Friends, has died at age 70, his agent says.
BBC reported Monday that Barrie Marshall confirmed Cocker’s death.
The Sheffield-born musician died after a “hard-fought battle with small cell lung cancer,” said his record label, Sony.
Known for his gravelly voice and charismatic stage performances, Cocker shot to fame in the 1960s when his version of With a Little Help From My Friends made it to No. 1 on the charts. The song was released by the Beatles in 1967 on their critically acclaimed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band studio album.
Cocker’s 1969 performance of the song at Woodstock has become one of the most iconic moments to come out of the legendary American rock music festival.
Cocker’s nostalgic version was also used as the theme song to the hit television series The Wonder Years in the 1980s and 1990s.
In a statement Monday, Paul McCartney remembered hearing Cocker’s cover of the song he and John Lennon co-wrote for Ringo Starr and finding it “just mind blowing,” a “soul anthem.”
“I was forever grateful for him for doing that,” McCartney said. “I knew him through the years as a good mate, and I was so sad to hear that he had been ill and really sad to hear today that he had passed away.”
The ballad You Are So Beautiful, with Cocker’s voice cracking on the final emotional note, was a Top 10 hit in 1975. He reached the top of the charts in the 1980s with the duet Up Where We Belong, with American singer-songwriter Jennifer Warnes.
The platinum-certified, Grammy Award-winning track also appeared in the 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentlemen, starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger.
Cocker also had hits with Randy Newman’s song, You Can Leave Your Hat On and When the Night Comes.
He recorded 40 albums in his four-decade career and influenced the work of many other artists.
Canadian rocker Bryan Adams turned to Twitter to express his grief over losing his “good friend.”
“You were one of the best rock singers EVER,” wrote Adams.
Last year, Cocker and his band toured Europe for two months on the heels of his new album, Fire It Up.
Cocker, who received an Order of the British Empire for his contribution to music, released 40 albums and continued to tour after the hits stopped. His other popular covers included Feelin’ Alright, The Letter and Cry Me a River, a song previously recorded by one of Cocker’s greatest influences, Ray Charles.
His voice, at times so worn it seemed in danger of shredding, was just one part of his legend. No Cocker fan could forget his intense, twitchy stage presence, his arms flailing, his hips stretching, his face contorting.
Among those watching was actor John Belushi, whose expert imitation became a feature of his early National Lampoon shows and eventually a part of popular history when he joined Cocker in 1976 for a duet of Feelin’ Alright on Saturday Night Live.
Cocker was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, and was singing with local bands by the time he was a teenager. His early groups included Vance Arnold and the Avengers and the Grease Band, which backed him on With A Little Help From My Friends.
Cocker moved to Crawford, Col., a town of fewer than 500 people, in the early 1990s. He and his wife, Pam, ran a children’s educational foundation — the Cocker Kids Foundation — that raised funds for the town and schools, and ran the Mad Dog Cafe for several years in town, said Tom Wills, publisher of The North Fork Merchant Herald, a local community newspaper.
Wills said Cocker bought about 40 acres of property and built a hillside mansion, which he called Mad Dog Ranch, when he moved to Colorado.
A group of Cocker’s friends gathered Monday at community radio station KVNF to play Cocker’s songs.
“He had a long battle with cancer. We’re trying to do a little tribute for him,” said Bob Pennetta, a real estate agent and board member of the Cocker Kids Foundation.
Cocker is survived by his wife, Pam; a brother; a step daughter and two grandchildren. A private memorial is planned. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Cocker Kids’ Foundation, P.O. Box 404, Crawford, CO. 81415.