Sheffield blues star Joe Cocker made a name for himself covering other people’s songs, before carving a niche as a fully fledged artist. Ahead of his Dubai gig, here are a few more Joe facts …
1 His big break came when he covered The Beatles ‘A Little Help From My Friends’ in 1968, hitting the UK top spot. But it was actually the second Beatles song he’d covered, the first being ‘I’ll Cry Instead’, which was released with little interest in 1964. Both records featured a then-little-known session guitarist called Jimmy Page, who later went onto be a founding member of Led Zeppelin.
2 Born in 1944, Cocker’s first gig was as a four-piece band called The Cavaliers. But the teenage band were still charged entry to the youth club in which they were performing to help cover the club’s costs. Cocker then juggled working as a gas-fitter and playing cover gigs around his UK home town of Sheffield, under the name Vance Arnold and The Avengers.
3 In 1969, Joe formed his Mad Dogs and Englishmen band and was booked on an extensive American tour. The group featured more than 30 musicians, including a pianist, three drummers (yes, three)and a host of backing singers. It was during this period that inter-band tensions started to escalate, and Cocker began drinking heavily, which affected his already throaty vocals.
4 His biography may claim that his ‘unmistakable bluesy voice’ is a musical trademark in its own right,’ but we think that’s hyperbole. What is true, however, is that he has won nearly every music award during his career, including a Grammy, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. In 2007 Cocker was awarded an OBE for his services to music. Rolling Stone also named him as one of the 100 greatest singers of all time.
5 Cocker was one of the lucky acts to have played at the seminal 1969 Woodstock, even though he was not very well known at the time. After the performance, however, he quickly became internationally renowned.
6 Despite being covered in the recent American Idol show, and appearing on the French and UK versions, Joe isn’t a fan of the talent search format. ‘When you think of all the losers on the show who disappear into nowhere, it probably would have been more disillusioning for me if I’d been in a competition like this and lost, than to work in the pubs and come up that way.’
7 Things got quite hectic for Cocker during the 1970s as he reportedly battled with drink and drug addictions. He also had to combat some high-profile mockery (although we’re sure he’d call it flattery) when John Belushi famously aped Cocker’s style of dancing, which involved him throwing his arms around, Thunderbird style. And Cocker’s reaction? ‘I thought he did a great job.’
8 Despite several strong rumours, and the fact that both men come from the same Northern town in the UK, he isn’t related to Jarvis Cocker, the lead singer of UK indie band Pulp. That didn’t stop Jarvis Cocker’s DJ father Mac from failing to deny the allegation live on radio.
9 He’s addicted to soundtracks, having sung theme songs for films 9½ Weeks, Harry and the Hendersons, Bull Durham and An Innocent Man.
10 He’s also addicted to touring. His current tour takes in 74 shows in just over six months (including his Dubai date on May 22), and spans three continents. Yet that’s positively pedestrian compared to his early ’70s tour schedule: during one summer, he took in 48 American cities, and recorded a live album, while his then-drummer described the month as a ‘big, wild party.’