‘Bringing down the house’ is the only accurate way to describe a Joe Cocker performance — the growling vocals, hypnotic jerks, and frenetic gesticulations made Cocker a true rock showman. You knew Joe Cocker when you saw him. You knew Joe Cocker when you heard him.
When Joe Cocker first covered The Beatles “With a Little Help From My Friends” on his 1969 debut LP, he turned the track on its head, dipped it in his patented spastic kerosene, and set it on fire with one long, extended rasp. His ability to mix English Rock with American Soul made him a worldwide sensation. In 1975, his version of “You Are So Beautiful” became an unexpected hit and showed off his tender side. His iconic voice is one of the most easily recognizable in pop music.
Today we mourn the passing of Joe Cocker at age 70 after a long battle with lung cancer. He’ll leave an indelible mark on the world of blues and rock and no doubt an even stronger one on his fans (like me) who were enlivened by the heartfelt, awe-inspiring vocal performances only he could deliver.
I’ll mourn the gritty legend the only way I know how — by listening and listening. Here’s five of Cocker’s most masterful live performances.