When I heard that John Robert Cocker p/k/a “Joe Cocker” passed away two days before Christmas, my heart broke a little.
Known for his soulful, blues riddled, grammy award winning, gritty voice, “The Sheffield Soul Shouter” has left an indelible mark on modern music and has been deemed by many as one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time.
The first time I was introduced to Joe Cocker’s music, I was in college. It was my freshman year, and during a late night at the fraternity I was pledging, while I was drunk munching some late night grub, a Saturday Night Live “Greatest Hits” marathon special was playing on a television. A disheveled, wildly gesturing man in typical 70s attire started to sing a funky little ditty called “Feelin’ Alright”. John Belushi then joined him on stage, impersonating the British singer to perfection.
While the bit may have been comedic genius, I was more impressed with the music that they were singing. Why hadn’t I heard this song before, and was it available at the record shop (hopefully used since I wasn’t making that much money in college pouring drinks for a catering company)?
The first Joe Cocker album I ever purchased was Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs & Englishmen“; a superb live album of Joe singing songs written by Leon Russell, George Harrison, Leonard Cohen, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, just to name a few. I realized that Joe was singer (as opposed to a singer/songwriter). He took those songs, and breathed his own life into them. His unique sound and stage presence are what differentiated him from others, and I was absolutely smitten with the discovery.
To honor of his life, and to reflect/remember what a special talent I thought he was, I spent some time scouring youtube for what I think are some of his best, or most memorable, live performances. It took a few hours, but I think I you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. If you’d rather not click on each video individually, scroll down to the bottom and click on the last video link to watch/listen to the all of the videos back, to back, to back.
Man … to have been able to see him live in concert during his prime …
In no particular order …
1. “Let’s Go Get Stoned” at Woodstock: For a few months in college, this song was my anthem. This performance at Woodstock? Legendary.
2. “With a Little Help From My Friends” at Woodstock: Personally, Joe’s arrangement of this song is far superior to The Beatles’ original version.
3. “The Letter”: Originally performed by The Box Tops, Joe’s version drips with the blues through Leon Russell’s arrangement. So killer.
4. “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”: In his older days, Joe sang songs that were more emotive. This Elton John and Bernie Taupin song is sung by Joe with such a rough tenderness that really stirs emotions.
5. “Up Where We Belong” with Jennifer Warnes: Ok … so this song is cheesy. But I still love it, and so did most of the world (it was a chart topping hit and earned Joe a Grammy Award).
6. “You Are So Beautiful”: This song is often times played at weddings. On this occasion, Joe dedicated the performance to the late Princess Diana.
7. “Feelin’ Alright”: The song that got me introduced me to Joe Cocker’s musical talent.
8. “Delta Lady”: He took a Ray Charles song and turned it into something altogether new. Not many artist can successfully do something like that. Classic.
9. “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”: Another The Beatles song that I prefer Joe Cocker singing.
10. “Cry Me A River”: This song was originally a ballad written for Ella Fitzgerald! Joe turned it upside down into a rocking gem.
COMPLETE VIDEO PLAYLIST
Very good selection of Joe Cocker live performances. Leon Russel took the best from Joe, and his group was superb, voices, horns…
They said when Joe Cocker finished this performances felt completely exhausted, and need to rest many days.
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I’m glad you enjoyed the selections! I agree that Leon Russel and Joe Cocker were destined/ordained to work together. I think their musical sensibilities were a match made in heaven.