Unique Sheffield talent Joe Cocker takes a final bow

File photo dated 04/07/07 of singer and musician Joe Cocker, who has died at the age of 70. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday December 22, 2014. See PA story DEATH Cocker. Photo credit should read: Joel Ryan/PA Wire
File photo dated 04/07/07 of singer and musician Joe Cocker, who has died at the age of 70. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday December 22, 2014. See PA story DEATH Cocker. Photo credit should read: Joel Ryan/PA Wire
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Retirement was never on the cards for Joe Cocker- instead the singer, who started life in Crookes and later conquered the American charts, simply intended to scale down his touring as he got older.

But the star took his final bow this week following his death from lung cancer at the age of 70, and tributes poured in from far and wide - only to be expected for a performer ‘admired by everybody’, said his Sheffield-based biographer JP Bean.

“Joe lit up people’s lives with his music, and his presence as well,” he said.

“When he was rocking there was nobody like him - he could lift you out of your seat. When he sang ballads, especially live, he could make the hairs stand up on the back of your head.”

Cocker’s remarkable rise to fame in the 1960s saw him leading a double life, working as a gas fitter by day and a club singer at night.

His 1968 breakthrough hit With A Little Help From My Friends - widely regarded as superior to the Beatles original - brought his distinctive, rasping vocals and convulsive stage mannerisms to the masses.

It remained one of his signature tunes, along with 1969’s Delta Lady and the Grammy-winning duet with Jennifer Warnes, Up Where We Belong.

“If a plump gas fitter from Sheffield could top the UK charts and then conquer America anything is possible,” said his biographer.

“He was a great interpreter of other people’s songs and had a very individual voice. When you heard Joe on the radio you knew straight away it was him, even if you didn’t know the song. He was admired by everybody - from the Beatles to Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye to James Brown.”

Even opera singer Pavarotti was a fan. The pair sang together on a version of You are so Beautiful in 1989.

In the 1970s, Joe succumbed to drink and drugs, but he never went to rehab, simply choosing to kick his addictions himself, an example of the ‘single-mindedness’ which drove his career.

Tours took him all over the world, and the Cocker discography stretched to 40 albums. His most recent LP, 2012’s Fire It Up, reached the UK top 20.

“He hadn’t planned to do the UK on his last tour, but Chris Evans played the single so much on Radio 2 that the promoters had to put on a date in London,” said JP, who first met the singer on tour in Germany in the 1980s while working on his authorised biography.

“I went, and it was wonderful. He touched people’s emotions with his music and engendered great affection in people who knew him.”

Despite living on a ranch in Colorado, USA, Blades fan Joe kept up an interest in Sheffield life.

The first signs of his illness appeared last year. He was undergoing chemotherapy as recently as three weeks ago.

JP said: “He came off a long tour of 69 dates across Europe. When he got back home he had pains in his side and went for tests, and that’s when it was found. His death still came as a blow, even though I knew the day would come.”

In 2007 Joe was made an OBE and he received a Sheffield Legends plaque outside the Town Hall. Talks will soon take place over a memorial, possibly another plaque or even a statue.

Joe leaves wife Pam, step-daughter Zoey, and grandchildren Eva and Simon.