Today as we say goodbye to British singer Joe Cocker, who died at 70 after a struggle with lung cancer, we’ll remember him most for that 1969 Woodstock performance of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” It was without a doubt a career-defining moment. He never stopped performing the song in his inimitably gruff style, his raspy voice partly a product of too many cigarettes and some pretty hard living over the decades. Known also for his air guitar proficiency, Cocker successfully covered other famous bands like Traffic and The Box Tops, and made many songs—like Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful to Me”—uniquely his.
But yes, it’s that 1969 debut album, also titled With a Little Help from My Friends, with its mix of originals and big-name covers from The Beatles and Bob Dylan, that first brought us the Joe Cocker we fondly pay tribute to this holiday week. I overheard someone describe Cocker as the only person who could do The Beatles better than they could, which is going a bit too far. But he may be the only artist whose covers of the band are as well-known and well-loved as their originals. Paul McCartney, who will lead memorials this week with Ringo Starr, said of Cocker’s “A Little Help,” “it was just mind-blowing, [he] totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful to him for doing that.” Indeed. At the top of the post, see Cocker and band above play “With a Little Help” in Cologne, Germany in 2013, and just above, watch again that gripping Woodstock performance.
Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock: The Complete Performance in Video & Audio (1969)
Dick Cavett’s Epic Woodstock Festival Show (August, 1969)
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
Thanks for this. Another one falls by the wayside.
RIP the great Joe Cocker-another legend…..gone. Makes me cry.
I became an instant fan of Joe Cocker after watching a recorded TV performance of his Woodstock rendition of Up Where We Belong. I will forever miss him. Tony Mamog…all the way from Lagos, Nigeria
I miss both Jimmy and Joe already. They were both great guys and musicians. I often wander through Strathcona playing their songs, wishing their talent was even more appreciated. I doubt they will ever be surpassed by anyone else.
There were three compelling performs at the Woodstock. Sly Stone,Jimi Hendrix, and Joe Cocker. But the one that held your attention the most was Joe Cocker. May he rest in peace.
On hearing of Joe Cockers’ death I immediately became saddened, for the realization that so many of the songs and singer/songwriters are going by way of all the earth. We have been blessed by Karen Carpenter, her Angels voice meets him~for now thank you for your songs, lyrics, and you giving to us. So long for now.
Thank you joe cocker for so many years of incredible music. We are so lucky to have lived when you did and heard you Do your thing!
God speed Joe. Thanks for the beautiful music.I am sitting here watching you perform at the
Original Woodstock festival.Great music. wish I had been there. Thank you again for all the music.Still love it
I just watched Joe Cocker perform live from Woodstock 1969 “A Little From My Friends” This had to have been his greatest performance /rendition of this song ever, it brought back memories, goose bumps, and tears I Love You Joe Cocker
Being convinced that th Beatles were, are and will 4ever be the greatest most original andinspiring rock band in hum
Being convinced that the Beatles were, are and will 4ever be the greatest most original and inspiring rock band in human history, Joe Cocker was the only artist able to improve a Beatle song by covering “With^a litttle Help”