John Robert “Joe” Cocker has been, as the lyrics of his legendary “Unchain My Heart” beg for, set free.
The iconic blues and rock singer, known for his unique covers and gritty, powerful voice, has passed away at age 70.
Sony’s official statement announced that Mr. Cocker lost a valiant fight with small-cell lung cancer today.
Joe Cocker was born in Sheffield, England, in 1944, and created over 40 albums in his lifetime. He was best known for powerful, soulful songs like his 1975 hit single, “You are So Beautiful” and the Grammy Award winning hit, “Up Where We Belong.” In 2007 he was awarded the OBE at Buckingham Palace for his contribution to music.
I first heard his voice as a little girl watching the television show The Wonder Years. He covered—with that heart-wrenching, powerful voice unlike any other—The Beatles, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” which played during the show’s opening.
As soon as I heard him croon the words, “What would you do if I sang out of tune,” I would run to the room—as much to hear his voice as to watch the show. His version was radically different from the original—as unique as he himself was—and he performed it at Woodstock back in 1969. His version was finally inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.
Several years ago, I was lucky enough to see Joe Cocker perform in Calgary, Alberta.
He stole the show, rocked the stage, and his voice seemed not to have aged a moment from the days when I listened to him in pigtails. His sound has always seemed to reach out and grab my heart. He sounded, more than any other artist I’ve heard live, as if he meant every word he was singing, and as if he was singing right to you.
Joe Cocker is survived by his wife Pam, his brother Victor, his step-daughter, Zoey Schroeder and two grandchildren, Eva and Simon Schroeder.
His voice will certainly live on.
Watch Joe Cocker’s live performance of Unchain My Heart:
Joe Cocker at Woodstock performing With a Little Help from My Friends:
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Author: Keeley Milne
Editor: Travis May