Farewell Joe Cocker: Into the 1970s

Woodstock, Joe Cocker, 1970
Joe Cocker Buy This at Allposters.com
Even Joe Cocker would have admitted that his life and career were a blur in the 1970s. Music critics were even quick to point out that the decade was a write-off for Cocker and that his career nosedived.

There is no doubt that after the outstanding triumph of his interpretation of The Beatles' With A Little Help From My Friends, his commercial success began to falter a little. Drugs, drink and his mental health were to blame, but to call this period a failure is not to paint an entirely full picture.

His problems certainly did not stop him making great use of that soulful, gravel voice.

During the Seventies, it seemed that it was appreciated much more in the States than in his native UK. The bulk of his live work happened there, probably because his singles and albums generated more sales on that side of the Atlantic.

Among those that made little impression on record buyers in the UK are three of Cocker's most enduring recordings - all of which appeared on the Billboard Top 40 during the 70s.

1970: The Letter

Like his Beatles' cover, Joe Cocker regularly recorded songs made famous by other artists and then made them his own. Often times, the arrangement was such that his reinterpretation bore little similarity to the original.

A case in point is The Letter: an international hit for The Box Tops in 1967. Cocker, along with Leon Russell, got a hold of this track and changed it from a two minute pop song into a near five minute bluesy-rock rendition, complete with brass backing.

It was included on his album Mad Dogs and Englishmen and put him in the American Top 10 for the first time.

1972: Midnight Rider

Over the years a number of versions of Midnight Rider have appeared. The original was recorded by The Allman Brothers Band and included on their second album Idlewild South.

Cocker completely changed the feel of the song from a lazy, acoustic Southern Rock-style to a much brasher, uptempo arrangement which incorporates elements of jazz, blues and soul, sprinkled with some gospel for good measure.

Included on his eponymous 1972 album, when released as a single, the track peaked at Number 27 on the American chart.

1975: You Are So Beautiful

Cocker's biggest hit of the 1970s came in 1975 when he recorded a version of the Billy Preston composition You Are So Beautiful.

Often described as one of the greatest love songs ever written, it demonstrated a much quieter and restrained Joe Cocker. In fact, it is almost three minutes of tempered raw emotion, allowing his vocals to soar and break.

While he is associated more so with his Number 1 Beatles' cover in the UK, this haunting track is the one that many will remember him by in the States.

It took him back into the Top 10 after five years of waiting.

Joe Cocker 1944 - 2014

The best of Joe Cocker's recordings from the 1970s and beyond are included on these wonderful collections, available in the UK or the USA.

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