Joe Cocker Dead At 70; Singer’s Music Highlighted Woodstock, Films And TV
by David Bloom December 22, 2014 12:14pm
Joe Cocker, the gravel-voiced singer whose music graced memorable scenes in Nine 1/2 Weeks and An Officer and a Gentleman along with the Woodstock documentary, died today in Crawford, Colo., at 70 from a form of lung cancer.
Though he was primarily known for his covers of songs written by the Beatles, Randy Newman and others, Cocker’s music appeared in seemingly countless TV shows and films, beginning at the end of the 1960s with appearances on a series of music shows and documentaries, including Mad Dogs & Englishmen and the original Woodstock documentary of the legendary rock concert.
Best known were his performances of Newman’s You Can Leave Your Hat On in a particularly steamy scene between Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger during Nine 1/2 Weeks. Another big romantic shot came in the finale of An Officer and a Gentleman, where he sang Up Where We Belong with Jennifer Warnes as Richard Gere‘s character sweeps Debra Winger‘s character up and carries her out of the factory. The latter song went on to become a No. 1 hit in the United States, and sold more than 2 million copies. He also performed the song on the 55th Academy Awards in 1983.
Other songs with which he was inextricably linked are With a Little Help From My Friends (memorably performed in the Woodstock documentary; see video clip below), You Are So Beautiful, Unchain My Heart, California Love, Feeling All Right and The Letter. His intensely soulful, even tortured performances, where he contorted his body around a song, made up for any technical shortcomings in his not-classical voice.
Cocker’s music was a backdrop to TV shows such as The Wonder Years, Family Guy, Hello Ladies, The Wire, Entourage, House M.D., Friends, Full House, Beavis and Butt-Head, Miami Vice and Saturday Night Live. During Cocker’s live performance on SNL in 1975, John Belushi came onstage dressed in near-identical clothing and traded lines of Feelin’ All Right with Cocker, contorting his body and voice in a striking imitation of Cocker’s distinctive style.
Other films featuring Cocker’s music include Iron Man 2, The Pursuit of Happyness, 20 Feet From Stardom, Across the Universe, Finding Graceland, Carlito’s Way, Sleepless in Seattle and The Bodyguard.
Cocker was born May 20, 1944 in Sheffield, England, as John Robert Cocker. Cocker was awarded the O.B.E. by Queen Elizabeth II in 2007. He is survived by his wife Pam Baker.