5 Classic Joe Cocker Songs in Honor of the Late British Rock-and-Soul Singer

The late, legendary British rock-and-soul singer Joe Cocker would’ve celebrated his 80th birthday on May 20, 2024.

Videos by American Songwriter

Cocker was known for his powerful, gravelly voice and his eccentric body movements while performing. He had his biggest success as an interpreter of songs by other artists and composers, although he also did co-write a lot of his own material.

[RELATED: 8 Classic Rock Songs for Romantic Evenings]

Many of Cocker’s recordings became hit singles, while others became staples on classic-rock radio. The singer died on December 22, 2014, of lung cancer. He was 70.

In honor of Cocker’s milestone birthday, here are five of the memorable performances for which he’s most famous:

“With a Little Help from My Friends” (1969)

Cocker’s uniquely soulful rendition of the classic Beatles song “With a Little Help from My Friends” was the title track of his 1969 debut album. The recording featured Jimmy Page on guitar.

The song was released as a single in late 1968, and it topped the U.K. chart in November of that year. In the U.S., it only reached No. 68 on the Hot 100.

Cocker’s association with the song became immortalized when he sang it at the historic 1969 Woodstock festival, and his performance was included in the Oscar-winning 1970 documentary about the event. Later, Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help from My Friends” was used as the theme song of the popular TV series The Wonder Years.

“The Letter” (1970)

Cocker scored his first hit single in the U.S. with his cover of The Box Tops’ 1967 chart-topper “The Letter.” Cocker’s raucous, horn-driven live version of the tune peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“The Letter” was featured on the singer’s third album, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, a collection of live performances recorded at the Fillmore East in New York City during his 1970 tour of the same name. The trek featured Cocker joined by a large band that included Leon Russell and various musicians and singers who’d previously toured and recorded with Delaney & Bonnie.

Mad Dogs & Englishmen reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Cocker’s version of the 1950s torch song “Cry Me a River” also was a hit single from the album, peaking at No. 11 on the Hot 100.

A concert movie filmed during the trek was released in 1971.

“You Are So Beautiful” (1975)

Cocker had his biggest U.S. solo hit with the tender love ballad “You Are So Beautiful.” The song, which appeared on Joe’s 1974 studio album I Can Stand a Little Rain, reached No. 5 on the Hot 100.

“You Are So Beautiful” was co-written by Billy Preston and his frequent collaborator Bruce Fisher. Some sources claim that Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson also helped compose the tune.

Cocker’s version of the song featured piano by lauded session musician Nicky Hopkins and arrangements by famed songwriter Jimmy Webb. The singer’s rendition of “You Are So Beautiful” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016.

“Up Where We Belong” – with Jennifer Warnes (1982)

Cocker recorded the soaring ballad “Up Where We Belong” as a duet with Jennifer Warnes for the hit 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman. The song spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in November of that year. It also topped the charts in several other countries.

In 1983, Cocker was awarded his only Grammy Award for the song, in the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal category. Meanwhile, the tune’s composers—Buffie Sainte Marie, Jack Nitzsche, and Will Jennings—won the Best Original Song honor at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes.

“When the Night Comes” (1989)

Cocker had his last big hit in the U.S. in 1989 with “When the Night Comes.” The song, which was the lead track from his 1989 album One Night of Sin, reached No. 11 on the Hot 100.

“When the Night Comes” was co-written by Bryan Adams, along with Adams’ longtime songwriting partner Jim Vallance and renowned hit-maker Diane Warren.

Adams also played rhythm guitar on the track. The song appeared on the soundtrack of the 1989 Tom Selleck film An Innocent Man. It was played during the end credits of the crime thriller.

Leave a Reply

Dhani Harrison Was Moved Musically and Spiritually by Tuvan Throat Singers Huun-Huur-Tu on New Album ‘Dreamers in the Field’

The Voice

Blake Shelton Returns to ‘The Voice’ Season 25 Finale, Will He Be Returning as a Coach in Season 26?