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Joe Cocker

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Title: Joe Cocker  
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Subject: List of artists who have covered Bob Dylan songs, One Night of Sin, Heart & Soul (Joe Cocker album), Woodstock, Across the Universe (film)
Collection: 1944 Births, 2014 Deaths, 20Th-Century English Singers, 21St-Century English Singers, A&M Records Artists, Blue-Eyed Soul Singers, Cancer Deaths in Colorado, Capitol Records Artists, Deaths from Lung Cancer, English Baritones, English Expatriates in the United States, English Male Film Actors, English Male Singers, English Pop Singers, English Rock Singers, English Soul Singers, Gasfitters, Grammy Award Winners, Island Records Artists, Living People, Music in Sheffield, Musicians from Sheffield, Officers of the Order of the British Empire, People from Sheffield, Sheffield Legends
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Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker
Cocker performing at Festival du Bout du Monde in France in 2013
Background information
Birth name John Robert Cocker
Also known as Vance Arnold
The Sheffield Soul Shouter
Born (1944-05-20)20 May 1944
Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died 22 December 2014(2014-12-22) (aged 70)
Crawford, Colorado, United States
Genres Rock, blues, soul, pop
Occupation(s) Singer, musician
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1961–2014
Labels Regal Zonophone, A&M, Capitol, EMI, Decca
Associated acts the Grease Band
Website .com.cockerwww

John Robert "Joe" Cocker, OBE (20 May 1944 – 22 December 2014) was an English singer and musician. He was known for his gritty voice, spasmodic body movement in performance, and definitive versions of popular songs.

Cocker's cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends" reached number one in the UK in 1968. He performed the song live at Woodstock in 1969, and at the Party at the Palace concert for the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2002. His version also became the theme song for the TV series The Wonder Years. His 1974 cover of "You Are So Beautiful", reached number five in the US. Cocker was the recipient of several awards, including a 1983 Grammy Award for his US number one "Up Where We Belong", a duet with Jennifer Warnes.

In 1993 Cocker was nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male, in 2007 was awarded a bronze Sheffield Legends plaque in his hometown, and in 2008 he received an OBE at Buckingham Palace for services to music.[1][2] Cocker was ranked number 97 on Rolling Stone's 100 greatest singers list.[3]


  • Life and career 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Early career (1961–66) 1.2
    • The Grease Band (1966–1969) 1.3
    • Mad Dogs & Englishmen (1970–1971) 1.4
    • On the road (1972–1982) 1.5
    • Later career (1982–2014) 1.6
    • Death 1.7
    • Tribute concerts 1.8
  • Personal life 2
  • Accolades 3
  • Discography 4
    • Studio albums 4.1
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Life and career

Early life

Cocker was born on 20 May 1944 at 38 Tasker Road, Crookes, Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire. He was the youngest son of a civil servant, Harold Cocker, and Madge Cocker, née Lee.[4] According to differing family stories, Cocker received his nickname of Joe either from playing a childhood game called "Cowboy Joe", or from a local window cleaner named Joe.

Cocker's main musical influences growing up were Ray Charles and Lonnie Donegan. Cocker's first experience singing in public was at age 12 when his elder brother Victor invited him on stage to sing during a gig of his skiffle group. In 1960, along with three friends, Cocker formed his first group, the Cavaliers. For the group's first performance at a youth club, they were required to pay the price of admission before entering. The Cavaliers eventually broke up after a year and Cocker left school to become an apprentice gasfitter working for the East Midlands Gas Board, later British Gas, while simultaneously pursuing a career in music.[5]

Cocker was not related to fellow Sheffield-born musician Jarvis Cocker, despite a rumour to this effect (particularly in Australia, where Jarvis Cocker's father, the radio presenter Mac Cocker, allowed listeners to believe that he was Cocker's brother).[6][7]

Early career (1961–66)

In 1961, under the stage name Vance Arnold, Cocker continued his career with a new group, Vance Arnold and the Avengers.[8] The name was a combination of Vince Everett, Elvis Presley's character in Jailhouse Rock (which Cocker misheard as Vance); and country singer Eddy Arnold.[9] The group mostly played in the pubs of Sheffield,[8] performing covers of Chuck Berry and Ray Charles songs. Cocker developed an interest in blues music and sought out recordings by John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins and Howlin' Wolf.[10] In 1963, they booked their first significant gig when they supported the Rolling Stones at Sheffield City Hall.[11] In 1964, Cocker signed a recording contract as a solo act with Decca and released his first single, a cover of the Beatles' "I'll Cry Instead" (with Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page playing guitars). Despite extensive promotion from Decca lauding his youth and working class roots, the record was a flop and his recording contract with Decca lapsed at the end of 1964.[12] After Cocker recorded the single, he dropped his stage name and formed a new group, Joe Cocker's Big Blues. There is only one known recording of Joe Cocker's Big Blues on an EP given out by The Sheffield College during Rag Week and called Rag Goes Mad at the Mojo.[13]

The Grease Band (1966–1969)

In 1966, after a year-long hiatus from music, Cocker teamed up with Marquee Club in London, and a "new" Grease Band was formed with Stainton and keyboardist Tommy Eyre.[14]

Drums by Tommy Eyre.

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After minor success in the United States with the single "Marjorine", Cocker entered the big time with a groundbreaking rearrangement of "Top Ten on the UK Singles Chart, remaining there for thirteen weeks and eventually reaching number one, on 9 November 1968.[15] It also reached number 68 on the US charts.[16] Upon hearing about Cocker's death in 2014, Paul McCartney said the following words about Cocker's version of the Beatles 1967 song:

"He [Cocker] was a lovely northern lad who I loved a lot and, like many people, I loved his singing. I was especially pleased when he decided to cover "With a Little Help from My Friends" and I remember him and (producer) Denny Cordell coming round to the studio in Savile Row (central London) and playing me what they'd recorded and it was just mind-blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful to him for doing that."[17]

The new touring line-up of Cocker's Grease Band featured Henry McCullough on lead guitar, who would go on to briefly play with McCartney's Wings. After touring the UK with the Who in autumn 1968[18] and Gene Pitney and Marmalade in early winter 1969, the Grease Band embarked on their first tour of the United States in spring 1969. Cocker's album With a Little Help from My Friends was released soon after their arrival and made number 35 on the American charts, eventually going gold.[19]

Joe Cocker at Woodstock (1969)

During his United States tour, Cocker played at several large festivals, including the Artie Kornfeld to book Cocker and the Grease Band for the Woodstock Festival. The group had to be flown into the festival by helicopter due to the large crowds. They performed several songs, including "Delta Lady", "Something's Comin' On", "Let's Go Get Stoned", "I Shall Be Released", and "With a Little Help from My Friends". Cocker would later say that the experience was "like an eclipse ... it was a very special day."[20]

Directly after Woodstock, Cocker released his second album, She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" and "Something" for the album.[21] Recorded during a break in touring in the spring and summer, the album reached number 11 on the US charts and garnered a second UK hit with the Leon Russell song, "Delta Lady".[22]

In August 1969, Cocker performed at the Isle of Wight Festival at Wootton Bridge, Isle of Wight, England.[23] Throughout 1969 he was featured on variety TV shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and This Is Tom Jones. Onstage, he exhibited an idiosyncratic physical intensity, flailing his arms and playing air guitar. At the end of the year Cocker was unwilling to embark on another US tour, so he dissolved the Grease Band.

Mad Dogs & Englishmen (1970–1971)

Cocker in 1969, in a photo that would inspire the cover of his second album Joe Cocker! (1969).

Despite Cocker's reluctance to venture out on the road again, an American tour had already been booked so he had to quickly form a new band in order to fulfill his contractual obligations. It proved to be a large group of more than 20 musicians, including pianist and bandleader Leon Russell, three drummers - Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, and Chuck Blackwell, and backing vocalists Rita Coolidge and Claudia Lennear. Denny Cordell christened the new band "Mad Dogs & Englishmen", after the Noël Coward song of the same name. Cocker's music evolved into a more bluesy type of rock, compared to that of the Rolling Stones.[24]

During the ensuing Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour (later described by drummer Jim Keltner as "a big, wild party"),[25] Cocker toured 48 cities, recorded a live album, and received very positive reviews from Time and Life for his performances. However, the pace of the tour was exhausting. Russell and Cocker had personal problems; Cocker became depressed and began drinking excessively as the tour wound down in May 1970. Meanwhile, he enjoyed several chart entries in the United States with "Feelin' Alright" by Dave Mason and "Cry Me a River". His cover of the Box Tops' hit "The Letter", which appeared on the live album and film, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, became his first US Top Ten hit. After spending several months in Los Angeles, Cocker returned home to Sheffield where his family became increasingly concerned with his deteriorating physical and mental health. During this time, in periods between work, Cocker wrote the overture played by the UK Prime Minister Edward Heath on the occasion the Prime Minister famously conducted a live orchestra while in office.[26] In the summer of 1971, A&M Records released the single "High Time We Went". This became a hit, reaching number 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, but was not issued on an album until November 1972 on the Joe Cocker album.

On the road (1972–1982)

In early 1972, after nearly two years away from music, Cocker went on tour with a group that Chris Stainton had formed. He opened with a performance in Madison Square Garden which was attended by about 20,000 people. After touring the United States, he embarked on a European tour where he played to large audiences in Milan and Germany. He then returned to the United States for another tour in autumn 1972. During these tours the group cut the songs that would be part of his newest album, Joe Cocker. A mixture of live songs and studio recordings, the album peaked at number 30 on the US charts.[27]

Cocker performing on 16 October 1980 in the National Stadium, Dublin

In October 1972, when Cocker toured Australia, he and six members of his entourage were arrested in Adelaide for possession of marijuana. The next day, in Melbourne, assault charges were laid after a brawl at the Commodore Chateau Hotel,[28] and the Australian Federal Police gave Cocker 48 hours to leave the country. This caused huge public outcry in Australia, as Cocker was a high-profile overseas artist and had a strong support base, especially amongst the baby boomers who were coming of age and able to vote for the first time. It sparked hefty debate about the use and legalisation of marijuana in Australia, and gained Cocker the nickname "the Mad Dog".[29]

Shortly after the Australian tour, Stainton retired from his music career to establish his own recording studio. After his friend's departure and estrangement from longtime producer Denny Cordell, Cocker sank into depression and began using heroin. In June 1973, he kicked the habit but continued to drink heavily.[30]

At the end of 1973, Cocker returned to the studio to record a new album, I Can Stand A Little Rain. The album, released in August 1974, was number 11 on the US charts and one single, a cover of Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful", which reached the number 5 slot.[31] Despite positive reviews for the album, Cocker struggled with live performances, largely due to his problems with alcohol. One such instance was reported in a 1974 issue of Rolling Stone, which said that during two West Coast performances in October of that year he threw up onstage.[32]

In January 1975, he released a second album that had been recorded at the same time as I Can Stand a Little Rain, Jamaica Say You Will. To promote his new album, Cocker embarked on another tour of Australia, made possible by the country's new Labor government. In late 1975, he contributed vocals on a number of the tracks on Bo Diddley's The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album. He also recorded a new album in a Kingston, Jamaica studio, Stingray. However, record sales were disappointing; the album reached only number 70 on the US charts.[33]

In 1976, Cocker performed "Feelin' Alright" on Saturday Night Live. John Belushi joined him onstage doing his famous impersonation of Cocker's stage movements. At the time, Cocker was $800,000 in debt to A&M Records and struggling with alcoholism. Several months later, he met producer Michael Lang, who agreed to manage him on the condition that he stay sober. With a new band, Cocker embarked on a tour of New Zealand, Australia, and South America. He then recorded a new album with session work by Steve Gadd and Chuck Rainey, and a new, young bassist from Scotland, Rob Hartley. Hartley also toured briefly with Cocker's friends in 1977. In the autumn of 1978, Cocker toured North America promoting his album, Luxury You Can Afford. Despite this effort, it received mixed reviews and only sold around 300,000 copies.[34]

In 1979, Cocker joined the "Woodstock in Europe" tour, which featured musicians like Arlo Guthrie and Richie Havens who had played at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. He also performed in New York's Central Park to an audience of 20,000 people. The concert was recorded and released as the live album, Live in New York.[35] Cocker also toured Europe and appeared on the German television recording amphitheatre, Rockpalast, the first of many performances on the show. In 1982, Cocker recorded two songs with the jazz group the Crusaders on their album Standing Tall. One song, "I'm So Glad I'm Standing Here Today", was nominated for a Grammy Award and Cocker performed it with the Crusaders at the awards ceremony. The Crusaders wrote this song with Cocker in mind to sing it. Cocker then released a new reggae-influenced album, Sheffield Steel, recorded with the Compass Point All Stars, produced by Chris Blackwell and Alex Sadkin.

Later career (1982–2014)

Cocker playing air guitar in Hallandale Beach, Florida, in 2003

In 1982, at the behest of producer Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis, in particular because Lane was beginning to suffer from the degenerative disease.[36] The tour included a performance at New York's Madison Square Garden. While on another tour that year, Cocker was arrested by Austrian police after refusing to perform because of inadequate sound equipment. The charges were eventually dropped and Cocker was released.[37] Shortly after the incident, he released his ninth studio album, Civilized Man. His next album Cocker was dedicated to his mother, Madge, who died when he was recording in the studio with producer Terry Manning. A track from the album, "You Can Leave Your Hat On" was featured in the 1986 film 9½ Weeks. The album eventually went Platinum on the European charts.[38] His 1987 album Unchain My Heart was nominated for a Grammy Award, although it did not win. One Night of Sin was also a commercial success, surpassing Unchain My Heart in sales.

Throughout the 1980s, Cocker continued to tour around the world, playing to large audiences in Europe, Australia and the United States. In 1988, he performed at London's Bryan Adams' "Feels Like Forever" made the UK Top 40.[41]

In 1992, Joe Cocker teamed with Canadian rocker Sass Jordan to sing "Trust in Me", which was featured on The Bodyguard soundtrack. At the 1993 Brit Awards, Cocker was nominated for Best British Male.[1] Cocker performed the Saturday opening set at Woodstock '94 as one of the few alumni who played at the original Woodstock Festival in 1969 and was well received.[42]

On 3 June 2002, Cocker performed "With A Little Help From My Friends" accompanied by Phil Collins on drums and Queen guitarist Brian May at the Party at the Palace concert in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, an event in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II.[43] In 2007, Cocker appeared playing minor characters in the film Across the Universe, as the lead singer on another Beatles' hit, "Come Together".[44] Cocker was awarded an OBE in the Queen's 2007 Birthday Honours list for services to music.[2] To celebrate receiving his award in mid December 2007, Cocker played two concerts in London and in his home town of Sheffield where he was awarded a bronze Sheffield Legends plaque outside Sheffield Town Hall.[45]

Joe Cocker in 2011

In April and May 2009, Cocker conducted a North American tour in support of his album Hymn for My Soul. He sang the vocals on "Little Wing" for the Carlos Santana album, Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time, released on 21 September 2010. In the autumn of 2010, Cocker toured Europe promoting his studio album Hard Knocks.

Cocker returned to Australia in 2008 and again in 2011, the latter of which featured

  • Official website
  • Joe Cocker at the Internet Movie Database
  • Joe Cocker at DMOZ
  • Photos taken by photographer Linda Wolf, one of the two official photographers of the Joe Cocker, Mad Dogs & Englishmen Tour, 1970

External links

  • Guinness Book of British Hit Singles (16th edition) ISBN 0-85112-190-X
  • The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits ISBN 0-85112-250-7
  • Guinness Book of British Hit Albums (7th edition) ISBN 0-85112-619-7
  • Guinness Rockopedia ISBN 0-85112-072-5
  • The Great Rock Discography (5th edition) ISBN 1-84195-017-3

Further reading

  • Bean, Julian P. (2003). Joe Cocker: The Authorised Biography. London:  
  • Logan, Nick; Woffinden, Bob (1975). The New Musical Express Book of Rock. Star Books.  


  1. ^ a b Brit Awards: Best British Male. Brit Awards. Retrieved 7 July 2012
  2. ^ a b "Rushdie and Eavis lead honours". BBC News. 16 July 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2008. 
  3. ^ "100 Greatest Singers". Rolling Stone. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  4. ^ "Index entry".  
  5. ^ Bean 2003, p. 6–9.
  6. ^ Lynn Barber (10 June 2007). "Paris match". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Will Hodgkinson (19 April 2009). "Soundtrack of my life: Jarvis Cocker". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c "The Story-Part One:On the runway to fame". Archived from the original on 30 July 2008. Retrieved 10 December 2008. 
  9. ^ Bean 2003, p. 16.
  10. ^ a b Don Hale. Sounds of the 60s. Don Hale. pp. 33–.  
  11. ^ "Joe Cocker, Grammy Award-winning singer dies at age of 70". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 December 2014
  12. ^ Bean 2003, p. 28.
  13. ^ "Back in the Summer of Love, with a little help from my friends ...". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 December 2014
  14. ^ Bean 2003, p. 43–45.
  15. ^ Bean 2003, p. 48–49.
  16. ^ Bean 2003, p. 54.
  17. ^ a b Gillman, Ollie (22 December 2014). "Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr lead tributes to singer Joe Cocker after he dies aged 70 following battle with lung cancer".  
  18. ^ Neill, Andrew; Kent, Matt (2005). Anyway Anyhow Anywhere. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 146.  
  19. ^ Bean 2003, p. 54–55.
  20. ^ Bean 2003, p. 58–60.
  21. ^ Bean 2003, p. 61.
  22. ^ "Joe Cocker - UK Charts". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 December 2014
  23. ^ "Isle of Wight Festival.- History". BBC. Retrieved 22 December 2014
  24. ^ "Joe Cocker Dies Of Lung Cancer At 70". 22 December 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  25. ^ Bean 2003, p. 70.
  26. ^ Bean 2003, p. 79.
  27. ^ Bean 2003, p. 96.
  28. ^ "Joe Cocker". Prescott Courier. 15 October 1972. Retrieved 27 December 2008. 
  29. ^ Bean 2003, p. 101.
  30. ^ Bean 2003, p. 110.
  31. ^ Bean 2003, p. 112–14.
  32. ^ Rolling Stone magazine — "Random Notes" — 21 November 1974, page 13
  33. ^ Bean 2003, p. 122.
  34. ^ Bean 2003, p. 140.
  35. ^ Bean 2003, p. 143.
  36. ^ "Jeff Beck Opens Up About Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Gigs with Clapton Jeff Beck Group Reunion Prospects".  
  37. ^ Bean 2003, p. 160.
  38. ^ Bean 2003, p. 167.
  39. ^ Bean 2003, p. 178.
  40. ^ Cockerwiese, Dresden.
  41. ^ Bean 2003, p. 189.
  42. ^ Steve Beard (2002). "Aftershocks: The End of Style Culture". p. 8. Wallflower Press,
  43. ^ "Huge crowds party at Palace concert". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 July 2012
  44. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (14 September 2007). Across the Universe' recycles songs, offers great visuals"'".  
  45. ^ "Joe Cocker to join Sheffield's 'hall of fame'. Local Government. Retrieved 22 December 2014
  46. ^ Gill, Michael (19 February 2011). "Cocker Quietly Rocks Perth". In My Community. Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  47. ^ Jeff Giles (25 September 2014). "Billy Joel Says Joe Cocker Is ‘Not Very Well Right Now’". Ulimate Rock Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  48. ^ "Joe Cocker dies aged 70". ITV News. 22 December 2014. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  49. ^ Quillen, Matt (22 December 2014). "Musician Joe Cocker dies at age 70". WLOX. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  50. ^ "'"Joe Cocker: Formidable vocalist who triumphed at Woodstock and won a Grammy with 'Up Where We Belong. The Independent. 
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^ Bean 2003, p. 171.
  54. ^ "Mojo – Top 100 Singers Of All Time - May 1999". Mojo. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  55. ^ "Rolling Stone – Greatest Singers of All Time - November 2008". Mojo. Retrieved 24 September 2012. 


Studio albums


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Mojo United Kingdom "Top 100 Singers Of All Time"[54] 1999 58
Rolling Stone United States "100 Greatest Singers of All Time"[55] 2008 97
Billboard United States Artist 100 2015 84
Billboard United States Social 50 2015 14


In 1978, Cocker moved onto a ranch Jane Fonda owned in Santa Barbara, California. Pam Baker, a local summer camp director and fan of Cocker's music, persuaded the actress to lend the house to Cocker. Baker began dating Cocker, and they married on 11 October 1987.[53] The couple resided on the Mad Dog Ranch in Crawford, Colorado.

In 1963, Cocker began dating Eileen Webster, also a resident of Sheffield.[10] The couple dated intermittently for the next 13 years, and separated permanently in 1976.

Personal life

On September 11, 2015 a "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" tribute concert to Joe Cocker was performed at the Lockn' Festival featuring The Tedeschi Trucks Band, Chris Stainton, Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, Claudia Lennear, Pamela Polland, Doyle Bramhall II, Dave Mason, John Bell, Warren Haynes and Chris Robinson amongst others. In commemoration,[51] a Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen Memory Book was created by Linda Wolf to celebrate the event.[52]

Tribute concerts

He died from lung cancer on 22 December 2014 in Crawford, Colorado.[48][49][50] The two remaining living ex-Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, were among those who paid tribute to the singer, while Cocker's agent, Barrie Marshall, said that Cocker was "without doubt the greatest rock/soul singer ever to come out of Britain."[17]

While performing a concert at Madison Square Garden on 17 September 2014, fellow musician Billy Joel stated that Cocker was "not very well right now" and endorsed Cocker for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[47]


On 20 March 2011, Cocker took part in a benefit concert for Cornell Dupree at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York. Dupree played on two Cocker albums: Stingray (1976) and Luxury You Can Afford (1978). Dupree's band Stuff was also Cocker's backing band on a tour promoting Stingray in 1976.


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