Joe Cocker: ‘a volcanic eruption in pop’

Joe Cocker, who has died aged 70, sang as if he was squeezing music out of every pore. Neil McCormick pays tribute.

Joe Cocker was one of the great voices of the rock era. In terms of hits and statistics, he may be a minor player with a few fabulous records to his credit, but to a generation of music lovers who felt the full force of his performance, Cocker is and always will be one of the definitive singers.

A big, loud, gruff, bluesy, boozy Sheffield character, he injected some American soul into the English beat scene, the first white English singer to really sound black. Cocker moved beyond the fluid soul of Sam Cooke and jazzy extemporisation of Ray Charles to just lose himself in the musical moment.

He sang with a supple fluency, rhythmic daring and raw emotion to match the great Otis Redding but somehow married that music to a hippie spirit of open-hearted adventure.

His arrival on the scene marks the point when British music was throwing off its last straight-laced adherence to anything rigid or uptight and really letting itself hang out. Cocker was a convulsive, volcanic eruption in pop music that affected everyone and everything he came into contact with.

Big and ugly, he was never a matinee idol, and that was a part of his appeal. He looked like a bruiser, he sang like a sensitive sweetheart, and in that contradiction he expressed the complexity of his real humanity

Read the full article here at The Telegraph by Neil McCormick

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