Joe Cocker: The Woodstock Screamer Was A Master Interpreter

By | November 6, 2018

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Joe Cocker performing on stage at the Whisky a Go-Go with the Grease Band in 1969. (Photo by Jim McCrary/Redferns)

Joe Cocker's Woodstock performance of "With A Little Help From My Friends" was one of the highlights of the festival, and gained him international exposure. With songs including "Feeling Alright," You Are So Beautiful," and "Up Where We Belong," Cocker established himself as one of the great song interpreters of the '70s and '80s. Cocker was best known for his rustic and gritty vocals as well as his unexpected and unorthodox body gyrations and movements while covering all genres of pop culture songs of his heyday.

Joe Cocker Was One Of The Great Song Interpreters Of The '70s

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Joe Cocker in 1970. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Joe Cocker didn't write songs, and he didn't necessarily record songs others had written for him. In fact, his best-known recordings are of tunes that had already been recorded and released -- often to much success -- by other artists. That was certainly the case with "With A Little Help From My Friends," which was the second track on the Beatles massively popular 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Cocker recorded notable versions of two other already-famous Beatles songs, "Something" and "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window." "Feeling Alright," which would become a signature Cocker tune, was written by Dave Mason for the band Traffic. Cocker's hits "Midnight Rider," "You Are So Beautiful," and "The Letter" were first recorded, very well, by the Allman Brothers Band, Billy Preston, and the Box Tops, respectively.

Often times, Cocker was recording his cover while the original version was still fresh in listeners' minds -- and still managing, somehow, to make the song his own. It's a style of and talent for song interpretation that has largely faded from popular music.