Monday, December 22, 2014

Obituary: Joe Cocker

I feel just a little bit older today having heard of the death of rock, blues, and soul singer Joe Cocker, who was 70 years old and lost his battle with lung cancer, according to his agent.

Cocker was an acquired taste for some, what with his gravelly voice, spastic movements, and greasy appearance (in the early years), but a lot of people loved him just the same.

He had a number of major hits, including his cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends," "Feelin' Alright," and "You Are So Beautiful." He was everywhere during the late 1960s in through the 1970s and beyond.

From the Woodstock concert:

Though Cocker was born in Britain, he and his wife Pam lived for many years in Colorado.

He gave up smoking back in 1992.

From the Times obit:

Asked about his mannerisms in an interview last year with The Guardian, Mr. Cocker said that they “came with my frustration at having never played guitar or piano.” He added: “It’s just a way of trying to get feeling out. I get excited, and it all comes through my body.”

John Robert Cocker was born on May 20, 1944, in Sheffield, England, and began playing drums and harmonica in 1959 with a group called the Cavaliers. Influenced by Ray Charles and skiffle stars like Lonnie Donegan, he soon switched to lead vocals and rebranded himself Vance Arnold — a name inspired by both the American country singer Eddy Arnold and a character from the Elvis Presley film “Love Me Tender.”

While still a budding teenage performer, Mr. Cocker had kept his day job as a gas fitter for the East Midlands Gas Board. He was given a six-month leave when he signed with Decca in 1964. But his version of the Beatles “I’ll Cry Instead” and a tour slot opening for Manfred Mann drew little notice, so he went back to gas fitting for a time.

He was certainly unique.

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