Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Vale Joe Cocker

Now here's one we didn't see coming.

Joe Cocker was one of the great British rock and soul vocalists, with a unique voice and signature performance style. Being internationally renowned, this is a big loss to the music world.

Joe had a somewhat storied career starting as a Sheffield gas fitter who sang in bands on weekends. He started a songwriting partnership with Chris Stainton in 1968 and had a minor hit with their first collaboration "Marjorine" soon after.

While he was a songwriter in his own right, he was more or less known as an interpreter of other people's songs. The follow up to "Marjorine" was a daring reworking of a recent track by the Beatles "With a Little Help From My Friends", which featured a young Jimmy Page on lead guitar. Soon after he hit big with a cover of the Traffic song "Feelin' Alright" and another Beatles tune "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window".

His legend was cemented by appearing at Woodstock, his uncontrollable flailing arm routine making him an prime target for imitation (John Belushi's dead on satire of him in National Lampoon's Lemmings is a sight to behold).

He hit the drugs and drink pretty hard in the 1970s and this caused him many problems. He embarked on a gruelling tour of the USA in 1970. A 65-shows-in-57-days tour across 48 cities with 30+ musicians plus roadies. Despite being a sell out tour, and producing a million selling album and feature film, it left Joe exhausted and heavily in debt. When he toured Australia soon after in 1971, he'd had a vicious fight with his girlfriend in a hotel lobby which resulted in the police being called. He was busted with marijuana in Melbourne and was deported back to England.

He battled booze and drugs for most of the 1970s and, once clean, saw a career rebirth with hits like "Unchain My Heart" and "You Can Leave Your Hat On" in the 1980s. He kept making albums up until his latest, "Fire It Up" in 2012.

Joe was a performer who gave 110% in every performance. The arm flailing was largely uncontrolled and just him losing control in the heat of the moment. His unique performance style and his uncanny way with a song made him loved the world over and the best of his work still sounds great.

Vale Joe. You will be missed.

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