No. 19

January 01, 2015

We ended the year with the death of one of musics most legendary voices, when Joe Cocker died of lung cancer on 22 December 2014 in Crawford, Colorado. The two living Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, were among those who paid tribute to the singer, while Cocker's agent, Barrie Marshall, said that Cocker was "without doubt the greatest rock/soul singer ever to come out of Britain. While performing a concert at Madison Square Garden on 17 September 2014, fellow musician Billy Joel stated that Cocker was "not very well right now" and endorsed Cocker for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Cocker was born on 20 May 1944 at 38 Tasker Road, Crookes, Sheffield, South Yorkshire. He was the youngest son of a civil servant, Harold Cocker, and Madge Cocker, née Lee. According to differing family stories, 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 when his elder brother Victor invited him on stage to sing during a gig of his skiffle group. In 1960, along with three friends, Cocker formed his first group, the Cavaliers. For the group's first performance at a youth club, they were required to pay the price of admission before entering. The Cavaliers eventually broke up after a year and Cocker left school to become an apprentice gasfitter while simultaneously pursuing a career in music.

In 1961, under the stage name Vance Arnold, Cocker continued his career with a new group, Vance Arnold and the Avengers.[8] The name was a combination of Vince Everett, Elvis Presley's character in Jailhouse Rock (which Cocker misheard as Vance); and country singer Eddy Arnold.[9] The group mostly played in the pubs of Sheffield,[8] performing covers of Chuck Berry and Ray Charles songs. Cocker developed an interest in blues music and sought out recordings by John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins and Howlin' Wolf.[10] In 1963, they booked their first significant gig when they supported the Rolling Stones at Sheffield City Hall.[11] In 1964, Cocker signed a recording contract as a solo act with Decca and released his first single, a cover of the Beatles' "I'll Cry Instead" (with Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page playing guitars). Despite extensive promotion from Decca lauding his youth and working class roots, the record was a flop and his recording contract with Decca lapsed at the end of 1964.[12] After Cocker recorded the single, he dropped his stage name and formed a new group, Joe Cocker's Big Blues. There is only one known recording of Joe Cocker's Big Blues on an EP given out by The Sheffield College during Rag Week and called Rag Goes Mad at the Mojo.

In 1966, after a year-long hiatus from music, Cocker teamed up with Chris Stainton, whom he had met several years before, to form the Grease Band.[8] The Grease Band was named after Cocker read an interview with jazz keyboardist Jimmy Smith, where Smith positively described another musician as "having a lot of grease." 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 for Cordell in a London studio. He then moved to London with Chris Stainton, and the Grease Band was dissolved. 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 entered the big time with a groundbreaking rearrangement of "With a Little Help from My Friends", another Beatles cover, which, many years later, was used as the opening theme for The Wonder Years. The recording features lead guitar from Jimmy Page, drumming by B. J. Wilson, backing vocals from Sue and Sunny, and Tommy Eyre on organ. After extensive touring and festival gigs, at the end of the year 1969 Cocker was unwilling to embark on another US tour, so he dissolved the Grease Band.


Despite Cocker's reluctance to venture out on the road again, an American tour had already been booked so he had to quickly form a new band in order to fulfill his contractual obligations. It proved to be a large group of more than 30 musicians. During the ensuing Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, Cocker toured 48 cities, recorded a live album, and received very positive reviews.oblems; Cocker became depressed and began drinking excessively as the tour wound down in May 1970. In early 1972, after nearly two years away from music, Cocker went on tour with a group that Chris Stainton had formed. In October 1972, when Cocker toured Australia, he and six members of his entourage were arrested in Adelaide for possession of marijuana. The next day, in Melbourne, assault charges were laid after a brawl at the Commodore Chateau Hotel, and the Australian Federal Police gave Cocker 48 hours to leave the country. At the end of 1973, Cocker returned to the studio to record a new album, I Can Stand A Little Rain. The album, released in August 1974, was number 11 on the US charts and one single, a cover of Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful", which reached the number 5 slot. Despite positive reviews for the album, Cocker struggled with live performances, largely due to his problems with alcohol. One such instance was reported in a 1974 issue of Rolling Stone, which said that during two West Coast performances in October of that year he threw up onstage. In January 1975, he released a second album that had been recorded at the same time as I Can Stand a Little Rain, Jamaica Say You Will.

In 1976, Cocker performed "Feelin' Alright" on Saturday Night Live. John Belushi joined him onstage doing his famous impersonation of Cocker's stage movements. 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 to an audience of 20,000 people. In 1982, at the behest of producer Stewart Levine, Cocker recorded the duet "Up Where We Belong" with Jennifer Warnes for the soundtrack of the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman. The song was an international hit, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and winning a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo. The duet also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Cocker and Warnes performed the song at the awards ceremony.

Throughout the 1980s, Cocker continued to tour around the world, playing to large audiences in Europe, Australia and the United States. On 3 June 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, an event in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II. In April and May 2009, Cocker conducted a North American tour in support of his album Hymn for My Soul. He sang the vocals on "Little Wing" for the Carlos Santana album, Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time.

Cocker returned to Australia in 2008 and again in 2011, the latter of which featured George Thorogood and the Destroyers as an opening act.On 20 March 2011, Cocker took part in a benefit concert for Cornell Dupree at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York. While performing a concert at Madison Square Garden on 17 September 2014, fellow musician Billy Joel stated that Cocker was "not very well right now" and endorsed Cocker for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.



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