English singer and musician, John Robert “Joe” Cocker died on the 22nd of December 2014.
Born on 20th of 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.
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.
During his United States tour, Cocker played at several large festivals, including the Newport Rock Festival and the Denver Pop Festival.
In August, Denny Cordell heard about the planned concert in Woodstock, New York and convinced organiser 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.”
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, 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”.
In 1982, at the behest of producer Stewart Levine, Cocker recorded the duet “Up Where We Belong” with Jennifer Warnes for the soundtrack of the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.
The song was an international hit, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and winning a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo.
The duet also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Cocker and Warnes performed the song at the awards ceremony.
Several days later, he was invited to perform “You Are So Beautiful” with Ray Charles in a television tribute to the musician.
In 1983, Cocker joined a star-studded line-up of British musicians, including Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Steve Winwood and Bill Wyman for singer Ronnie Lane’s 1983 tour to raise money for the London-based organisation Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis, in particular because Lane was beginning to suffer from the degenerative disease.
The tour included a performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
In his later years, Cocker remained active on the music scene. He kept recording, releasing Have a Little Faith (1994), Hymn for My Soul (2007) and Hard Knocks (2010), among many others.
In 2012, Cocker put out his 23rd album, Fire It Up, which also proved to be his last. He died in Crawford, Colorado, on December 22, 2014, from complications relating to lung cancer.
The legendary singer was survived by his wife Pam, his stepdaughter Zoey and two grandchildren.