Joe Cocker – Biography
Joe Cocker was born on 20 May 1944 in Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire. His full name is John Robert Cocker. He is the youngest son of Harold Cocker and Madge Cocker.
Famous for his husky voice, Joe Cocker started singing at the age 12 with his elder brother Victor. In 1960, Cocker formed his first group with three friends calling themselves the Cavaliers. The group broke up a year later. Cocker eventually left school to become an apprentice gasfitter while he pursuing a career in music.
In 1961, Joe Cocker took on the stage name Vance Arnold, continuing his singing career with a new group, Vance Arnold and the Avengers. Two years after in 1963, they booked their first big stint when they got a supporting act for the Rolling Stones at Sheffield City Hall.
In 1964, Decca Records signed a recording contract with Cocker as a solo artist. He released his first single, a cover version of the Beatles’ “I’ll Cry Instead”. The record was a failure and his recording contract with Decca expired at the end of 1964. He dropped his stage name after that and took a year long hiatus from singing.
In 1966, Joe Cocker teamed up with and old friend Chris Stainton to form the Grease Band playing mostly in pubs in and around Sheffield. The Grease Band caught the attention of Denny Cordell, a record producer who offered Cocker to record the single “Marjorine” without the Grease Band in a London studio. They moved to London soon after that.
Joe Cocker’s big break came with a groundbreaking rearrangement of “With a Little Help from My Friends”, another Beatles cover.
The single made the Top Ten on the British charts, remaining there for thirteen weeks and eventually reaching number one, on 9 November 1968. It also reached number 68 on the US charts.
From then on, Joe Cocker’s career never looked back, doing tours in the UK as well as the US and scoring many major hits along the way. Throughout 1969 he appeared on various variety TV shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and This Is Tom Jones. Tired from all these engagements, Cocker was unwilling to embark on another US tour, so he dissolved the Grease Band at the end of that year.
However, the US Tour has already been committed and to fulfill this commitment, Joe Cocker formed a new band called “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” comprising of more than 30 musicians. Cocker and hos band toured 48 cities, recorded a live album, and received very positive reviews from Time and Life for his performances. The tiring tour finally got the better of him and Cocker became depressed and began drinking excessively. Cocker returned home to Sheffield where his family became increasingly concerned with his deteriorating physical and mental health.
Joe Cocker took a 2 years rest after this episode but even when he was away, he was never forgotten, making an even bigger comeback in 1974. His popularity was as strong as ever and in 2007, Cocker was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours list for services to music.