“You can keep that diamond ring.
Take it downtown and find out what it will bring.
You can ask me to give you almost anything….all except my heart.”
It is essential for an artist to evolve if they are to survive changing times and tastes in the music industry. Joe Cocker began life in the late sixties as a counter culture icon with his iconic performance at the Woodstock festival and subsequent “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” tour with Leon Russell. Establishing himself with classic songs like “You Are So Beautiful” and “With a Little Help From My Friends”, by the mid seventies Cocker had faded from public view but had established a reputation as the preeminent rock interpreter of some of the greatest writers in the modern era.
His comeback in the eighties was miraculous to say the least, with the ballad smash “Up Where We Belong” returning him to the top of the charts. He continues to ride that wave of success, especially on classics like 1989s “One Night of Sin” and 1987s “Unchain My Heart”. While old fans stay mired in the sounds of his early days, those willing to investigate these newer albums will find many hidden gems.
One of his best efforts in years was 2002s “Respect Yourself”, his 18th studio album. Produced by John Shanks (Chris Isaak, Stevie Nicks, etc.), the album never veers too far from his soul and blues roots. The original track ‘You Can’t Have My Heart’, written by Shanks and frequent Cocker cohort CJ Vanston, is a classic example of why Cocker still is vital in the genre he helped to define.
“I can stand a little sorrow…
I can stand it till tomorrow.
I can stand a little strife…
Just another taste of life.”
Joe Cocker is one of the most instantly recognizable singers of the modern era, taking his vocal influences from the early blues and R&B singers, most notably Ray Charles. He began his career in the British steeltown of Sheffield and was launched onto the world stage during the psychedelic late 1960s with the A&M Records release “With A Little Help From My Friends”. Produced by Leon Russell cohort Denny Cordell, it was an instant classic. His appearance at the 1969 Woodstock festival cemented his status as a rock legend and the hits continued through the early 1970’s.
The epic “Maddogs and Englishmen” tour was documented in a bestselling album and movie release in 1970. The tour was a hit, but Cocker withdrew from the public eye soon after. He reemerged with “I Can Stand A Little Rain” in 1974, again on A&M Records. The title track, written by producer Jim Price and featuring a stirring piano by Randy Newman, was a true standout but not the smash hit. That came in the form of the Billy Preston-penned “You Are So Beautiful”, considered one of Cocker’s most heartfelt performances. But, ‘I Can Stand A Little Rain’ remains a unheralded classic sometimes overshadowed by this bigger hit.
Cocker toured and recorded throughout the rest of the 1970s without much mainstream success, but emerged from addiction problems in the early 1980’s on a new record label (Capitol) and with a new smash single, “Up Where We Belong” in 1982. Since that time, Cocker has had hit albums (1987’s “Unchain My Heart”, 1989’s “One Night of Sin”) and toured consistantly, always maintaining his persona as an elegant soul ambassador to the world.