Joe Cocker died today. He was 70 years old. As if Boomers needed another reason to feel old as dirt.
He became a pop star when his version of The Beatles’ With A Little Help from My Friends reached number one in 1968, after he performed it at Woodstock.
Joe Cocker isn’t in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, which a few people see as an oversight, because it couldn’t possibly be a snub.
Cocker lives in cultural lore beyond his music. If you’re a person of a certain age, when you hear the words “Joe Cocker,” you see this:
It was even better after Cocker went along with the joke.
Joe Cocker was #97 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest singers of all time.
“He brought Ray Charles to the mix as an influence on rock & roll,” says Steve Van Zandt. Joe Cocker’s voice is an irresistible force that combines a love of American soul music with an undeniable depth of feeling: The Northern English belter supercharged Charles’ raw-throated vocals with rock & roll attitude, most famously on his hit cover of the Boxtops’ “The Letter” and his monumental Woodstock performance of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” The response to that helped push along a wave of blue-eyed-soul acts, including Leon Russell, and Delaney and Bonnie. Cocker would go on to interpret tunes by Randy Newman and Traffic as if they were R&B classics. And once he was done with them, that’s what they were.
The Current’s Andrea Swensson notes that he was the first act to play at First Avenue in Minneapolis, then known as The Depot.
His agent said Cocker’s death is due to lung cancer.
Related: Joe Cocker: The 'Hard Knock' Life Of A Singular Singer (NPR).