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.