(20 May 1944 – 22 December 2014)
Joe Cocker. Immortalized at Woodstock. Lampooned by John Belushi. Best known for his raw, grit-soaked re-interpretations of other peoples’ songs. His venerations, you might say. Think about the sweet, relatively upbeat Sgt. Pepper’s song…Joe Cocker ripped out its guts and turned it into a searing soul ballad. That rearrangement was so radical, and so fantastic, that it’s probably better known than the original. It’s popular opinion that Cocker’s pretty much the only person out there who ever improved on the Beatles. McCartney and the boys didn’t mind that one bit. In fact, they were so impressed by his renditions that they allowed him pretty much free access to their songs.
But see, however much Cocker loved and admired the Beatles, his biggest musical influences were American r&b stars. Joe’s real idol was Ray Charles. Listening to The Genius is where he picked up all that soul. And that crazy body language. Here’s a Ray track, as venerated by Joe Cocker, “Let’s go Get Stoned.”