Hearing the news that Joe Cocker had passed on at the age of 70, really hit me. Joe was one of my all time favorite rockers who could take any song and make it his own. Joe Cocker was one of those singers that helped me through the good times and the bad times. There was many a night laying in bed with his songs coming through the headphones soothing my soul. I am thankful that his music lives on. Seems I’ve got to have a change of scene ‘Cause every night I have the strangest dreams Imprisoned by the way it could have been Left here on my own or so it seems I’ve got to leave before I start to scream Won’t someone lock the door and turn the key Feeling alright I’m not feeling too good myself Feeling alright I’m not feeling that good myself
So my evening run became an trek down memory lane as Joe Cocker was in my ears and I couldn’t keep back shedding a few tears listening to the now memories. His passing has taken a piece of my heart.
I grew up with Joe Cocker music, listening to his classic renditions of “The Letter”, “Feelin’ Alright”, “Delta Lady”, “Cry Me A River”, and so on. The man could sing and was as distinctive as he was iconic. Joe had the moves that seemed like he was having some sort of seizure. His face distorted, his body spasms, his arms reach in every direction and I loved it. Oh he would sweat as the fluids poured out of his body as he threw himself into the music. I finally got the chance to see Joe Cocker perform at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix. Back in about 1988 or 89, I was just checking out the New Times while attending ASU taking some summer classes and noticed that Joe was coming in concert and tickets were going on sale at 10:00 a.m. on a Friday. I let Carolyn know that we were going. I walked over to Gammage and strolled up to the ticket window run by Dillard’s and two tickets and she printed them out and we were on the front row. Incredible luck or what have you but this is back in the day when you either bought them at the ticket window or you could do a phone in order. So Carolyn and I saw Mr. Cocker live and in person about three feet from our seats. Classic performance, that will always rate as one of my all time favorite shows. It was an awesome experience as he had made a comeback from the many demons that seemed to get his way during the late 70’s and early 80’s. He appeared at peace with himself and his music. I consider myself lucky that I actually got to see him live.
I remember watching clips of Cocker at Woodstock and his stage presence was unreal. He took songs from Dave Mason, The Box Tops, The Beatles, Elton John and made them into his own classics. His style was indescribable but he had that strong gravelly voice that made the blues come alive. He was the best interpretive singer that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing.
If you have never heard him sing Joe could do Greg Allman’s “Midnight Rider” and turn around and do a Dylan song and you would just be mesmerized by that voice. He was something special
Some of my all time favorites that weren’t necessarily big hits and in no particular order include:
Inner City Blues by Marvin Gaye. You can just feel the soulfulness, the passion in the grittiness of the voice. Marvin’s lyrics are brought alive by Joe’s interpretive singing. Hang ups, let downs Bad breaks, set backs Natural fact is Honey, that I can’t pay my taxes Oh, make me wanna holler And throw up both my hands Yea, it makes me wanna holler And throw up both my hands Crime is increasing Trigger happy policing Panic is spreading God knows where, where we’re heading The song is something special.
Talking Back to the Night written by Steve Winwood. High above the heat of a summer New York street An out-of-work musician plays a solo saxophone He’s a preacher and a teacher And he stands up all alone
When The Night Comes written by Bryan Adams, et. al. I used to listen to this song by the hour. Great, great, version. Two spirits in the night That can leave before the morning light When there’s nothing left to lose And nothing left to fear So meet me on the edge of town Won’t keep you waiting I’ll be ‘round Then you and I We’ll just roll right out of here
Watching The River Flow by Bob Dylan People disagreeing on all just about everything, yeah Makes you stop and all wonder why Why only yesterday I saw somebody on the street Who just couldn’t help but cry Oh, this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow And as long as it does I’ll just sit here And watch the river flow
Two Wrongs Sometimes in the dark of the night, two wrongs can make a right. A sinful song that somehow feels right. Joe makes an adulterous relationship song into something really classic.
The Letter with Leon Russell. Give me a ticket for an aeroplane I ain’t got time to take no fast train Oh the lonely days are gone I’m coming home My baby she wrote me a letter
Cry Me A River on the Mad Dogs And English tour. Crazy! Leon Russell knocking it out as well.
You drove me, nearly drove me out of my head, never shed a tear Remember, I remember all that you said Told me love was too plebeian You were through with me
(Cry me a river)
(Cry me a river)
Want you to cry
With A Little Help From My Friends. Joe took the Beatles’ song and made it his own. At Woodstock he became a sensation and it is a great performance. What do I do when my love is away? (Does it worry you to be alone?) How do I feel by the end of the day? (Are you sad because you’re on your own?) No, I get by with a little help from my friends I get high with a little help from my friends Gonna try with a little help from my friends
At one of my high school proms, a group of us joined the cover band and did our own rendition of “With A Little Help From My Friends”. I’m not certain that we were quite as good but we tried. So his influence continued on.
Up Where We Belong Who could forget this duet with Jennifer Warnes from the movie Officer and a Gentlemen. This song brought Joe back on the comeback trail making him relevant again. A love song for my Carolyn. Hard to forget this one from so many years ago. A great love story that still has an emotional pull.
Who knows what tomorrow brings
In a world few hearts survive?
All I know is the way I feel
When it’s real, I keep it alive
The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
You Are So Beautiful a song by Billy Preston is so simple but yet Joe Cocker makes it a sweet love song. Just maybe the best ballad of all time. Most interesting to note is that Billy wrote it as a love song to God. Joe’s original hit was quite simple not using all of Billy’s lyrics but Joe in concert would extend and use all of the lyrics. This version is quite interesting as an older Joe performs with Princess Di displayed in the background. Such an emotional journey, one that can invoke great memories and one that I still sing in my heart for my love.
Joe Cocker may have been the most maligned star of his time. Many panned him for his style but Joe was a hardworking rock star. His library of songs is extensive and I can’t possibly place all of the songs I loved in my blog. “Delta Lady”, “Midnight Rider”, “High Time We Went”, “The Jealous Kind”, “Unchain My Heart”, “Shelter Me”, and on and on.
It is hard to believe that Joe Cocker is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is shameful that he has not been included and his induction is long overdue. Somebody over there has snubbed this legend and it needs to happen soon.
In closing the only person who could do Joe Cocker, besides Joe Cocker was John Belushi. If you have never seen Belushi with Cocker on Saturday night live doing “Feelin’ Alright” you have missed Belushi at his best. This is from October 2, 1976 which who would have known that October 2 would have significant meaning for me later on in my life. (My future wife’s birthday) At the time I was sitting on a couch in Duncan, AZ on a Saturday night watching a performance I will never forget. Belushi is just uncanny as a Cocker impersonator. Just watch, amazing.http://www.liveleak.com/ll_embed?f=d68d6ae507eb