Joe Cocker, was an English singer. He was known for his gritty voice, spasmodic body movement in performance, and distinctive versions of popular songs of varying genres.
Cocker's recording of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends" reached number one in the UK in 1968. He performed the song live at Woodstock in 1969 and performed the same year at the Isle of Wight Festival. His version also became the theme song for the TV series The Wonder Years. His 1974 cover of "You Are So Beautiful" reached number five in the US.
Cocker started The Grease Band in 1966. After minor success in the United States with the single "Marjorine", Cocker found commercial success with a rearrangement of "With a Little Help from My Friends," a Beatles cover, which, many years later, was used as the opening theme for The Wonder Years. The recording features lead guitar from Jimmy Page, and made the Top Ten on the UK Singles Chart, remaining there for thirteen weeks and eventually reaching number one, on November 9 1968. It also reached number 68 on the US charts. Upon hearing about Cocker's death in 2014, Paul McCartney said the following about Cocker's version of the Beatles 1967 song:
“He was a lovely northern lad who I loved a lot and, like many people, I loved his singing. I was especially pleased when he decided to cover "With a Little Help from My Friends" and I remember him and (producer) Denny Cordell coming round to the studio in Savile Row (central London) and playing me what they'd recorded and it was just mind-blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful to him for doing that.”
During his first United States tour in 1969, Cocker played at several large festivals, including the Newport Rock Festival and the Denver Pop Festival and Woodstock Festival. where they performed several songs, including "Feelin' Alright?," "Something's Comin' On," "Let's Go Get Stoned," "I Shall Be Released" and "With a Little Help from My Friends."
Directly after Woodstock, Cocker released his second album, Joe Cocker! Impressed by his cover of "With a Little Help from My Friends," Paul McCartney and George Harrison allowed Cocker to use their songs "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" and "Something" for the album. Recorded during a break in touring in the spring and summer, the album reached number 11 on the US charts and garnered a second UK hit with the Leon Russell song, "Delta Lady.”
In August 1969, Cocker performed at the Isle of Wight Festival at Wootton Bridge, Isle of Wight, England. Throughout 1969 he was featured on variety TV shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and This Is Tom Jones. Onstage, he exhibited an idiosyncratic physical intensity, flailing his arms and playing air guitar. At the end of the year Cocker was unwilling to embark on another US tour, so he dissolved the Grease Band. However, an American tour had already been booked so he had to quickly form a new band in order to fulfill his contractual obligations. It proved to be a large group of more than 20 musicians, including pianist and bandleader Leon Russell, Denny Cordell christened the new band "Mad Dogs & Englishmen," after the Noël Coward song of the same name. Cocker's music evolved into a more bluesy type of rock, comparable to that of the Rolling Stones.
During the ensuing Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour (later described by drummer Jim Keltner as "a big, wild party"), Cocker toured 48 cities, recorded a live album, and received very positive reviews from Time and Life for his performances. However, the pace of the tour was exhausting. Meanwhile, he enjoyed several chart entries in the United States with "Feelin' Alright" by Traffic and "Cry Me a River."
His cover of the Box Tops' hit "The Letter", which appeared on the live album and film, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, became his first US Top Ten hit. After spending several months in Los Angeles, Cocker returned home to Sheffield where his family became increasingly concerned with his deteriorating physical and mental health. He took two years off and them began touring again. At the end of 1973, Cocker returned to the studio to record a new album, I Can Stand A Little Rain. The album, released in August 1974, was number 11 on the US charts and one single, a cover of Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful," which reached number 5.
In 1976, Cocker performed "Feelin' Alright" on Saturday Night Live. John Belushi joined him onstage doing his famous impersonation of Cocker's stage movements.
Cocker died from lung cancer in 2014 in Crawford, Colorado, at the age of 70. The two remaining living ex-Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, were among those who paid tribute to the singer, while Cocker's agent, Barrie Marshall, said that Cocker was "without doubt the greatest rock/soul singer ever to come out of Britain".