Happy birthday Joe Cocker!

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Joe Cocker (May 20, 1944 - December 22, 2014) is a British rock and blues singer and songwriter. He is perhaps most known for his rearrangement of "With a Little Help from My Friends," and his duet with Jennifer Warnes, "Up Where We Belong." He was a major icon in American classic rock culture, appearing at the Woodstock Festival in 1969.

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Cocker was born John Robert Cocker in Sheffield, England to Harold and Madge Cocker. As a child, he was influenced by the music of Ray Charles and Lonnie Donegan, and his first performance came when his brother invited him on stage to join along with his skiffle band. Cocker left school to become an apprentice gasfitter while also pursuing his music career. He joined the band the Cavaliers, playing drums and harmonica before eventually moving on to lead vocals.

The band changed its name to Vance Arnold and the Avengers and released a number of recordings throughout the mid 1960s. They toured locally with the Hollies and the Rolling Stones.

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In 1964, Decca offered Cocker a contract. He recorded a cover of the Beatles' "I'll Cry Instead," but hated it and refused to sing it on stage. Despite Decca's promotion, his recording was a flop and his contract with Decca collapsed after one year.

Cocker then formed the group Joe Cocker's Big Blues. The group only made one recording before Cocker took a one year hiatus.

Returning to music, Cocker teamed up with Chris Stainton to form The Grease Band in 1966. The band played pubs around Sheffield before Cocker recorded the single "Marjorine" without the band. The original Grease Band was dissolved when the single was a hit, and Cocker and Stainton decided to move to London for a residency at the Marquee Club where they formed a new Grease Band.

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Soon enough, Cocker recorded the groundbreaking hit single "With a Little Help from my Friends," again covering The Beatles, featuring Jimmy Page, BJ Wilson, and Tommy Eyre. The song remained on the Top Ten British charts for 13 weeks and hit no. 1 on November 1, 1968.

Cocker went on to tour all around the world, playing especially big festivals in the United States including the Newport Rock Festival, the Denver Pop Festival, and the Woodstock Festival. The Grease Band recorded Joe Cocker! (1969), featuring covers of a variety of big name artists of the time including Bob Dylan and The Beatles.

By then, Cocker was a star performer, and was featured on The Ed Sullivan Show and This is Tom Jones.

The tours proved exhausting, so Cocker dissolved the Grease Band, but due to contractual obligations, was required to go on tour again in 1969. He had to quickly form another band, which came to be Mad Dogs and Englishmen. They were more than 30 musicians and their tour through the United States turned into a huge party, causing Cocker's mental and physical health to suffer.

His health continued to deteriorate throughout the 1970s, even as he released the hit single "You Are So Beautiful" in 1975. It wasn't until 1982 that things started to pick back up for him, when his duet with Jennifer Warnes, "Up Where We Belong," hit no. 1.

Since then, Cocker has had other songs appear in films and he continues to tour and record. He has been listed in Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

 

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Tuesday, 20 May 2014
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