Singer Joe Cocker is dead at 70

Posted on December 23, 2014 by UNITED PHOTO PRESS MAGAZINE


Joe Cocker, the British blues-rock singer whose raspy voice brought plaintive soul to such hits as "You Are So Beautiful" and the duet "Up Where We Belong," died Monday after a battle with lung cancer. He was 70.

Cocker's performing career spanned some 50 years, from Woodstock, where he sang the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends," to the digital-music era. He had tour dates scheduled well into 2015.

"Goodbye and God bless to Joe Cocker from one of his friends peace and love," tweeted Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.

Cocker began as a singer in England at the same time as the Beatles, with whom he was often linked. He played pubs across the country in a series of rock bands before he and his Grease Band recorded "With a Little Help From My Friends" in 1968 with Jimmy Page, Steve Winwood and others.

Joe Cocker: From Woodstock to digital music
Photos: People we lost in 2014

The song became a No. 1 hit in England and propelled him to Woodstock, where his passionate live version was a festival highlight and launched his U.S. career.

Cocker scored another major success in the early 1970s with "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," a live album and concert film.

"Up Where We Belong," his duet with Jennifer Warnes from the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman," was Cocker's biggest U.S. hit, topping the Billboard singles charts in 1982. It also won him a Grammy, and the Oscar for best original song.

Cocker was known for his spasmodic movements on stage, where he often flailed his arms as he sang. His distinctive moves, he said, were almost accidental.

"I never played organ or piano or guitar, so it was more out of frustration and me just trying to impersonate in a way," Cocker told the Broward-Palm Beach New Times in 2012. "I did it subconsciously. People mistook for me being ill, like I had palsy. I'm not nearly so demonstrative now, but I still have my own way of feeling the rhythm."

Cocker also had lesser hits with covers of torch classic "Cry Me a River," Traffic's "Feeling Alright," the Boxtops' "The Letter" and the Beatles' "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window."

In the 1980s his witty cover of Randy Newman's "You Can Leave Your Hat On," was featured in the erotic drama "9 1/2 Weeks" and became a strip-tease anthem.