Joe Cocker, whose hit songs included You Are So Beautiful and Up Where We Belong, has died aged 70.
His agent, Barrie Marshall, said he died yesterday of lung cancer in Colorado, where he had lived for the past two
Cocker, a song interpreter more than a songwriter, first became known through his hit cover of the Beatles’ With a Little Help From My Friends, and a characteristically manic performance at the first Woodstock festival in 1969.
His raucous Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour of 1970 produced a film and a recording that went gold.
He had a top 10 hit in 1975 with the aching ballad You Are So Beautiful, with his voice cracking on the final emotional note.
He won his first Grammy in 1983 for his Up Where We Belong duet with Jennifer Warner, which was the theme of the movie An Officer and a Gentleman.
Cocker, who was born in Sheffield, released 40 albums and continued to tour after the hits dried up.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney said: “It’s really sad to hear about Joe’s passing. He was a lovely northern lad who I loved a lot and, like many people, I loved his singing.
“I was especially pleased when he decided to cover With A Little Help From My Friends.
“I remember him and producer Denny Cordell coming round to the studio in Savile Row and playing me what they’d recorded and it was just mind-blowing. I was forever grateful to him for doing that.
“I knew him through the years as a good mate and I was so sad to hear that he had passed away. He was a great guy, a lovely guy who brought so much to the world.”
Cocker was known for an intense, twitchy stage presence where his arms would flail and face contort as he wrung notes from his raspy voice.
Cocker once admitted he played an imaginary piano and air guitar while singing – the elements that contributed to this unique style.
“That was the frustration of not being able to play,” he said.
Cocker moved to Crawford, Colorado, a town of fewer than 500 people, in the early 1990s.
He and his wife, Pam, ran the Cocker Kids Foundation that raised funds for the town and schools, and ran the Mad Dog Cafe for several years in town, said Tom Wills, publisher of The North Fork Merchant Herald, a local community newspaper.
Wills said Cocker bought about 40 acres of property and built a hillside mansion – which he called Mad Dog Ranch when he moved to Colorado.