Rock, blues and soul all lost an iconic voice this holiday season. Joe Cocker, one of the most prominent singers throughout the 1960’s
and 1970’s, lost his battle with lung cancer. He was 70 years old. Cocker gained fame by putting unique spins on classic songs, and his live performance style was as engaging as they come.

Though other artists are more celebrated or highly regarded, he was part of a scene that forever altered the musical landscape in both his native United Kingdom and the United States. With his passing, the world loses another relic from this incredible period in popular music.
Cocker was part of the British blues scene that revolutionized rock n’ roll in the mid to late 1960’s. He began his career mainly covering early rock n’ roll musicians such as Chuck Berry and Ray Charles, but developed an appreciation for American blues and began to shift his focus in that direction. After several early struggles, Cocker formed the Grease Band in 1966 and began to have his first successes in the recording industry. He struck gold in 1968 when his bluesy rearrangement of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends”, which was a top ten hit in the UK, and reached number 68 on the American charts. Cocker and his band were part of the Woodstock music festival, one of the most significant moments in rock n’ roll history. By the end of the decade, he was a bonafide star.

Cocker’s success continued into the 1970’s when he toured with his new group Mad Dogs and Englishmen. He put out a string of hits that included “The Letter”, “Feelin’ Alright”, “Cry Me a River” and “You Are So Beautiful To Me”. However, like many other rock artists of the time, Cocker succumbed to substance abuse, and this led to trouble both in the studio and with the law. Despite these problems, he was able to release several well-received records. In 1982, his career was revived when he won a Grammy, Oscar and had a number 1 hit with “Up Where We Belong”, a duet with Jennifer Warnes that was featured on the soundtrack for the film An Officer and a Gentleman.

This was followed by another series of commercially successful and well-received albums. In 1994, his career came full circle when he opened the 25th anniversary edition of Woodstock, one of the few artists from the original festival to play at the ’94 incarnation.
As a singer, Joe Cocker was gritty and soulful. His voice wasn’t beautiful in any classic sense, or even by many standards for rock music. But much like Janis Joplin, who came up during the same period, it was the imperfections in his voice that gave a realness to his music that others could not match. His performances were from another world as well. Cocker was famously out-of-control when he was on stage. He would sway wildly, almost to the point of convulsing. He was always covered in sweat, and many times looked downright sickly. But it was a style that had the audience captivated every time he went on stage. Cocker had a sense of humor about it though, even going on Saturday Night Live to perform alongside John Belushi who was doing an impression of Cocker’s wild movements. With age, the movements decreased dramatically, but his raw emotion was always present in his performances.

Joe Cocker was part of a musical revolution. It was a time when British blues musicians created a new form of rock n’ roll that would dominate the scene for a decade and influence countless of other musicians and artists throughout the years. The Mad Dog now rests in peace.

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