Artist News Obituaries

Joe Cocker 1944-2014

By | Published on Tuesday 6 January 2015

Joe Cocker

Blues-rock man Joe Cocker died just before Christmas, aged 70, after losing his fight against lung cancer.

Born John Robert Cocker in Sheffield, he initially trained as an apprentice gasfitter, later sidelining that to instead form and lead the band Arnold & The Avengers. He eventually signed a solo deal with Decca and released his first track, a cover of The Beatles’ ‘I’ll Cry Instead’, in 1964. Whilst the record did poorly and the contract lapsed, forcing Cocker to go back to his gas board job, three years later he released a second Beatles cover, the Jimmy Page-featuring ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, scoring his first UK number one in the process.

Cocker also proved popular in the States, not least thanks to an iconic appearance at America’s Woodstock festival in 1969. He released his acclaimed ‘Joe Cocker!’ LP in the weeks following the festival, this featuring his takes on The Beatles’ ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’ and ‘Something’. Having dissolved his then live band, The Grease Band, he formed a new 21-man collective called Mad Dogs & Englishmen, playing a taxing 65-date tour of The USs.

Having lapsed into a heavy drinking habit, Cocker largely took a break from writing and recording until 1972 when he began playing live again, though his world tour was cut short by a high-profile arrest in Australia for possession of marijuana. He released a latter series of LPs, framed by ‘I Can Stand A Little Rain’ and ‘Luxury You Can Afford’, whilst battling alcoholism and dealing with significant debts to his label at the time, A&M Records.

In 1982, Cocker found new success with his and singer Jennifer Warnes’ collaborative track ‘Up Where We Belong’, which won a Grammy and an Oscar as part of the soundtrack to the hit film ‘An Officer And A Gentleman’.

He released a chain of well-received LPs over the next two decades, taking high billings at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute gala, and also joining with Phil Collins and Brian May to sing ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ at Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee concert in 2002. He was made OBE in 2007, and released his 20th LP, covers compilation ‘Hymn For My Soul’, that same year.

On hearing of Cocker’s death, his manager Barrie Marshall said: “He was without the doubt the greatest rock and soul voice ever to come out of Britain and remained the same man throughout his life. He was a true star, a kind and humble man who loved to perform. Anyone who ever saw him live will never forget him”.

Adding to a flood of tributes, Paul McCartney said: “Joe was a lovely northern lad who I loved a lot and, like many people, I loved his singing. I was especially pleased when he decided to cover ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’, it was just mind-blowing. He totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful to him for doing that”.

Cocker is survived by his wife Pam, stepdaughter Zoey Schroeder, and two grandchildren.