Bluesy British rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer at the age of 70, Rolling Stone reports. Cocker was best known for his soulful interpretations of cover songs, including “You Are So Beautiful” and his 1968 cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” which pretty much everyone who was alive in the ’80s remembers as The Wonder Years theme. Born into a working-class family in Sheffield, South Yorkshire on May 20, 1944, Cocker first became famous playing with The Grease Band, with whom he performed at Woodstock in 1969:
Cocker then assembled the Mad Dogs And Englishmen band for his eponymous 1969-1970 U.S. tour, which inspired a live album and film of the same name. During this period, Cocker developed a blues-based musical style compared to the Rolling Stones, and scored pop hits with his covers of “Cry Me A River,” “Feelin’ Alright,” and “The Letter.” Cocker toured and released albums throughout the ’70s, leading to one of his biggest hits, a cover of Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful,” from his 1974 album I Can Stand A Little Rain. In 1978, Cocker performed “Feelin’ Alright” on Saturday Night Live, where John Belushi joined him to do his impression of the singer’s spastic performance style:
Cocker continued to tour throughout the ’80s, although his only big hit during the decade was his duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong,” which was used as the theme song for An Officer And A Gentleman and for which Warnes and Cocker won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo. (Another of Cocker’s songs, a cover of Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” formed the soundtrack for Kim Basinger’s striptease scene in 9 1/2 Weeks.) Cocker released over 40 albums during his four-decade career, although his output slowed in recent years. In 2007 he appeared playing a number of bit parts in the Beatles tribute movie Across The Universe; that same year he was awarded the OBE by Queen Elizabeth II. Billy Joel paid tribute to Cocker at a concert at Madison Square Garden this past September, where he described Cocker as “a great singer who is not very well right now.”
You can read a lovely tribute to Cocker and his music by The A.V. Club’s Jason Heller here.