Though Cocker was legendary for his earlier music (“With a Little Help From My Friends,” which he famously performed at Woodstock, is best-known as “The Wonder Years” classic theme song) he had some success in his later years, too. He had a top-selling European tour along with his final album, “Fire It Up,” in 2012. He also won an Oscar in 1982 for the song “Up Where We Belong,” a duet with Jennifer Warnes on “An Officer and a Gentleman” soundtrack.
Born and raised in Sheffield, England, he toured all over the world and was exceptionally energetic in concert. From a Washington Post article about one of Cocker’s shows in May 1970: “With all due apologies to Ike and Tina Turner, Janis, et al, I have never seen a more exciting live rock show … I didn’t bother with a poll, but I’d be willing to wager that not too many of the other 1,500 blown minds at that concert would disagree with me,” wrote reviewer Alex Ward.
The news about Cocker’s declining health was kept under wraps until September, when Billy Joel performed a tribute for Cocker in concert and called him “a great singer who is not very well right now.” He also urged for Cocker to get a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Here’s Sony Music’s full statement:
John Robert Cocker, known to family, friends, his community and fans around the world as Joe Cocker, passed away on December 22, 2014 after a hard fought battle with small cell lung cancer. Mr. Cocker was 70 years old.
Joe Cocker was born 5/20/1944 in Sheffield, England where he lived until his early 20’s. In 2007 he was awarded the OBE by the Queen of England.
His international success as a blues/rock singer began in 1964 and continues till this day. Joe created nearly 40 albums and toured extensively around the globe.
The Recording Academy also weighed in with a statement:
Singer/songwriter Joe Cocker had one of the most distinctive, soulful voices in all of rock. Classics such “You Are So Beautiful,” his famous cover of the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” as well as his GRAMMY®-winning duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong,” showcased his rich, compelling vocals as well as his undeniable talent. Known for his powerful delivery and dynamic stage presence, he toured extensively around the world, becoming an international superstar in the process. Our music community has lost a passionate and influential artist, and his legacy will continue to inspire and entertain generations to come. Our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and all who have been enriched by his remarkable work.
written by Emily Yahr, Washington Post