The ex-gas fitter from Sheffield, Yorkshire, reached the British Top 30 in 1968 with his record Marjorine.
Six months later he recorded The Beatles‘ With A Little Help From My Friends and caused a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 1969 Cocker and the Grease Band (Henry McCullough, Chris Stainton, Alan Spenner and Bruce Rowland) crossed the Atlantic to establish ‘Cocker Power’ in the US, where they made a star appearance at the Woodstock Festival.
In September that year, Cocker hit the charts again with Delta Lady, written by Leon Russell with whom Joe teamed up the following year for a US tour billed as “Mad Dogs & Englishmen”.
Early in 1970, Cocker returned to The Beatles to record She Came In Through The Bathroom Window. It was a Top 30 US hit. Meanwhile, The Letter (a cover of The Box Tops‘ hit) was released in May 1970 and became a Top 40 British hit. It reached #7 in America.
During the early seventies, Cocker’s heroin addiction controlled his life. He became incapable of working, but thankfully material had been previously canned to ensure records could be released at respectable intervals.
In 1972 Cocker went out on the road again with a new band formed by Chris Stainton. Cocker and six of his bandmates were arrested in 1972 while on tour in Adelaide (Australia) for possession of marijuana, heroin and syringes. They were deported and Cocker then spent much of the 70s in alcoholic and career oblivion.
In 1981, act just about cleaned up, The Crusaders offered him a leg-up with I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today. Soon, a new deal, and – once he’d proved he could handle an American tour – global success beckoned.
He duetted with Jennifer Warnes on Up Where We Belong for the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and the song raced to #7 in the British charts in January 1983, and to the top of the US charts where it stayed for three weeks.
The song won several Grammy awards and earned Cocker a new contract with Capitol Records. Unchain My Heart was released as a single in November 1987.
Cocker rose again in the 90s with three British hit singles and a healthy touring career in the US.
Joe Cocker died on 22 December 2014 of lung cancer. He was 70.