Joe Cocker, whose epic, gritty voice and wild, idiosyncratic hip gyrations made him one of the most popular rock and blues singers of the past 45 years, died today in Colorado following a lengthy battle with lung cancer. He was 70 years old.
Born John Robert Cocker in Sheffield, England, Cocker rose to fame in the late '60s with a series of popular covers including his dramatic version of The Beatles' With A Little Help From My Friends. Following a famed appearance at Woodstock, Cocker formed the band Mad Dogs And Englishman, which featured pianist and bandleader Leon Russell along with singer Rita Coolidge. A live album of their 1970 tour reached No. 1 and included hit versions of the songs The Letter, Feelin' Alright and Cry Me A River.
In a memorable 1976 TV appearance, Cocker sang Feelin' Alright on Saturday Night Live and was joined by John Belushi, who did a spot-on impersonation of the singer's stage moves. Cocker continued to record and tour, and he again hit the top of the charts and won a Grammy with the song Up Where We Belong (a duet with singer Jennifer Warnes), featured in the 1982 movie An Officer And A Gentleman.
Cocker was awarded an OBE in 2007 for his contribution to music. In a statement confirming the singer's death, Cocker's agent Barrie Marshall said that he was "simply unique" and "it will be impossible to fill the space he leaves in our hearts."