Joe Cocker

Known for his unique performance style and gritty-voiced takes on pop material, Joe Cocker was recognized across the globe as one of the best singers of the 1960s and 1970s. Born in Sheffield, England in 1944, Cocker was influenced at an early age by American R & B and British skiffle music. He began singing at the age of twelve when his brother brought him onstage during a skiffle performance. In 1960 he formed a short-lived band, the Cavaliers, which broke up after Cocker decided to become a gasfitter. As Vance Arnold, Cocker formed another band in 1961 that, in 1963, opened for the Rolling Stones. As a solo artist, Cocker was signed to Decca, recorded a failed single, and was dropped from the label—all in 1964. He went on hiatus until 1966, when he formed the Grease Band. Cocker recorded the single “Marjorine” without the band and it broke up. He returned to the studio to record his breakthrough hit, a cover of the 1967 Beatles song “With a Little Help from My Friends.” He embarked on a tour of the United States in 1969 and released his debut album, With a Little Help from My Friends, the same year. In the United States, Cocker performed at large festivals including Woodstock. He released a second, self-titled, album in 1969 and had to return to the road in 1970 to fulfill contractual obligations. The Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, album, and film showcased Cocker’s transition into blues rock with a band of twenty-plus members. Through the 1970s, Cocker continued to tour and release new albums despite his alcoholism. Managed by Michael Lang, Cocker sobered up and continued touring and recording through the 1980s. With Jennifer Warnes, Cocker’s duet “Up Where We Belong,” from the soundtrack of the 1982 film Officer and a Gentleman, reached number 1 on the Billboard charts and became a hit across the globe. He continued to tour until his 2014 death from lung cancer. Cocker was best known for his covers of Beatles material, and when he died Paul McCartney expressed appreciation for his heartfelt take on “With a Little Help from My Friends.”