May 20, 1944 — December 22, 2014
At a time when the singer-songwriter was prominent, especially among the performers preferred by music fana of so-called underground music Joe Cocker was not a singer-songwriter. Joe Cocker was an interpreter of that music like no other. Everyone knows (and many have a theory) why the Beatles were not at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Most of those theories seem to forget that the Beatles as a group hadn't played live for years and were all but disbanded by August 1969. Be that as it may, the Beatles were present nonetheless. Their creative spirit help lead to large outdoor rock festivals and their music was there more than any other group that also wasn't there.
Crosby, Stills, and Nash had sung "Blackbird." Richie Havens had done "Strawberry Fields Forever" and had also sung "With a Little Help from My Friends," but it was Joe Cocker's "Friends" that topped all the covers. As I've written before in these blog entries, some performers didn't need Woodstock to be propelled forward (e.g., The Who). Some performers got shot into stardom (e.g., Santana). Some got no push and continued in anonymity (e.g.. Quill). Joe would likely have made it (as would have Santana), but being in the film and on the triple album was a career catalyst.
He left the Grease Band that had backed him at Woodstock and the famous Mad Dogs and Englishmen band--an amazing conglomerate of musicians that sometimes included George Harrison--whose concerts were always special. His career included gold albums and hit singles. Sometimes solo sometimes with someone. Life in the rock music lane has its many potholes and sometimes hitting a few at full speed provides an artistic jolt. At first, but eventually for most the toll outweighs the inspiration. Joe Cocker made many comebacks and was still performing (having released 23 albums) when he died in 2014. Thank you for all your music and those star-spangled shoes, too.