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Cocker, Joe (John)

hit tour band cocker’s

Cocker, Joe (John), gravelly voiced, British R&B/ rock vocalist; b. Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, May 20, 1944. Joe Cocker joined his first band, the Cavaliers, in 1959, and by 1963 he was the lead vocalist of Vance Arnold and the Avengers. Forming the Grease Band with musical mentor Chris Stainton in 1966, Cocker scored a minor English hit with Stainton’s “Marjorine” in 1968. The follow-up, a slow blues version of Lennon and McCartney’s “With a Little Help from My Friends,”became a top British and minor American hit. Cocker’s debut album for A&M Records featured the playing of Jimmy Page and Stevie Winwood and included a driving version of Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright.”

In 1969 Cocker and Stainton regrouped the Grease Band for a successful U.S. tour that culminated in Cocker’s much-heralded appearance at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August. During the tour, he met sessions keyboardist Leon Russell, who later produced and played on Joe Cocker!, which yielded a minor hit with Russell’s “Delta Lady” and a moderate hit with Lennon and McCartney’s “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.” Russell subsequently assembled a large revue for Cocker dubbed Mad Dogs and Englishmen, with a full horn section and vocal chorus (which included Rita Coolidge), for an enormously successful 1970 tour. The double-record set of recordings from the tour remained on the album charts for a year and eventually produced two near-smash hit singles with “The Letter” and “Cry Me a River.” The tour launched the popular careers of Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge and marked the high point of Cocker’s career.

Exhausted physically and financially by the tour, Joe Cocker abandoned England for Calif., and his subsequent success was limited to the U.S. Joe Cocker, recorded with Grease Band veterans Chris Stainton and Alan Spenner, yielded two major hits, “High Time We Went” and “Midnight Rider,” and two minor hits, “Woman to Woman” and “Pardon Me Sir.” However, Stainton quit the band in early 1973 and Cocker’s 1974 tour was a virtual disaster due to his excessive drinking. He did not achieve another major success until 1975’s “You are So Beautiful,” co-written by Billy Preston, became a smash hit. Dumped by A&M, Cocker switched to Elektra/Asylum in 1978 and Island in 1982. On Island, he soon scored a top hit with Jennifer Warnes on the love theme from the film An Officer and a Gentleman, “Up Where We Belong.” By 1984 he had moved to Capitol Records, where he eventually had a major hit with “When the Night Comes” in 1989. In 1994 Cocker switched to 550 Music for Have a Little Faith . The 1995 A&M anthology set Long Voyage Home featured Joe Cocker’s recordings for A&M, Elektra, Island, and Capitol.

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