Joe Cocker Sings “With A Little Help From My Friends,” Live in 2013 and At Woodstock in 1969

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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Comments (11)
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  • Paul Harricks says:

    Thanks for this. Anoth­er one falls by the way­side.

  • simone gad says:

    RIP the great Joe Cock­er-anoth­er legend.….gone. Makes me cry.

  • Tony Mamoh says:

    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

  • johnberk says:

    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.

  • Kola Oke says:

    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.

  • Hope Hudson says:

    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.

  • Bob says:

    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!

  • Dolores says:

    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

  • Arnie "Chef" Villegase says:

    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

  • Serge DEPOTTER says:

    Being con­vinced that th Bea­t­les were, are and will 4ever be the great­est most orig­i­nal andin­spir­ing rock band in hum

  • Serge DEPOTTER says:

    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”

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