The following cherry-pick through Joe’s discography includes the writing credits for each song.
- THE LETTER ( Wayne Thompson)
- CRY ME A RIVER ( Arthur Hamilton)
- ONE NIGHT OF SIN ( Dave Bartholomew/ Pearl King )
- FUN TIME ( Allen Toussaint)
- MANY RIVERS TO CROSS ( Jimmy Cliff)
- YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR HAT ON (Randy Newman)
- I KEEP FORGETTIN’ ( Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller)
- FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN ( Leonard Cohen)
- I THINK IT’S GOING TO RAIN TODAY( Randy Newman)
- DARLING BE HOME SOON ( John Sebastian)
Although Joe Cocker co-wrote many songs, mostly with long-time keyboard cohort Chris Stainton, it was his interpretive skills that, rightly, took him to the heights. Despite his ramshackle manner, he was a deeply informed student of song, as evidenced by his extremely wide range of source material, which covered most of the bases of popular and also eclectic songwriting.
His signature songs, ” A Little Help From My Friends” and “You Are So Beautiful” by Lennon & McCartney and Billy Preston, respectively, are among the best-known cover songs in modern musical history, and along with his duet with Jennifer Warnes, the ubiquitous “Up Where We Belong” (Will Jennings, Jack Nitzche, Buffy Saint Marie ), are probably the most recognizable pillars of his reputation, but in his long career, there were so many writers who benefited from his way with a song.
Up front about his adoration for Ray Charles, he was visibly moved on a TV program when Ray complemented him on being a star pupil ” He may have begun taking it from me, but what you hear now is all Joe Cocker-it’s his soul you’re hearin’ “.
He inhabited a song as completely as did Ray Charles, which is as fitting a tribute as he would ever have wanted, being the humble man he was.
Watching the SNL anniversary show, with the Belushi clips, brought to mind an encounter I had with him in NYC, before the Not Ready For Primetime Players burst into our consciousness. I was in Manhattan with a business partner, pitching some new r’n’b product to the labels, and one evening we dropped by a modest comedy club that was featuring a revue by the name of “The National Lampoon Show.” Many of the future SNL troupe were in the cast, including Gilda Radner, as I recall, but the shining light, already, was Belushi……until he broke out the Cocker bit, to which I took offence, Joe being an acquaintance of mine and a good lad.
It was an informal place, with no backstage to speak of, so, emboldened by certain substances, I wandered back to take issue with the Cocker bit. I button-holed him, and as soon as I started in he said ” Is that accent for real?” and immediately assumed a credible Fab Four voice as I berated him for what I considered, at the time, a cruel parody of Joe.
“No! No! You got it wrong….I love Joe Cocker. That’s why I do the bit!”
We had a drink and he went back for the second show. I hung around, as my biz partner was away for an early night. Another drink was had, the way you do, after the second show, and he and I strolled out into the Manhattan night.
We ended up in a bar somewhere in the West Village until the wee hours, in most stimulating and stimulated conversation lubricated by nectar and the occasional Peruvian moment. Mostly the conversation was about music. He was extremely knowledgeable, and liked that I was a Liverpool guy who’d moved to the American south to realize my dream of doing r’n’b and rock ‘n’roll in the cradle of the form. When we reeled out in companionable disarray, he made sure I got a taxi back to my hotel, and that was that.
When I first watched SNL, it was like…I know that fella…then a couple of shows in, he did the Cocker bit for the first time on national TV, and the rest, as they say, was history. I never ran into him again and never tried to connect through channels.
It was a one-off, a wonderful, cool one-off, when he was on the brink of so many things, good and bad. I hadn’t thought about that night in years, but last night’s show brought the memory back.
RIP, Belushi. RIP, Cocker…..yiz were made for each other!
One of the pleasures and perks of being a studio-owning muso in the relative twilight of one’s career is the ability to take on little projects for the sheer fun of it. One such for me has been a string of wedding songs written and recorded specifically for the nuptials of the members of our extended family.
I started this tradition after my son, who was first out of the chute in the marriage stakes, got hitched, so he and his spouse don’t have one, but from my daughter onward, and including all the cousins, there’s been a song for the occasion.
These are full-blown studio productions complete with packaging, and we usually make up 100 as keepsakes for the wedding guests. I like the fact that stylistically I can tailor the piece , in some fashion , to the couple in question , either suggested by their professions, or interests. I can stretch out musically – who’s gonna stop me ?-and it’s a one of a kind personal giftie.
There have been some suggestions that it could be a profitable sideline, but doing it for hire would take the joy out of it for me, so that isn’t an option, although I did branch out and do one for a dear friend of ours.
The Bells Are Ringin’…
A suggestion to any Bacharach freaks out there : take ” Isley meets Bacharach” and the fabulous Costello / Bacharach collaboration :
Start with track 1.of Isley, then play track 1 of Costello. Go through both albums in that order, and you will end up with the most glorious example of Bacharach’s art on one disc. I’ve already done it, and it’s sublime…
With love M.S.
Heavy heart today, after yesterday’s news about Joe B. Mauldin’s passing at 74. He was an idol to me as a kid, and working with him from the late ’70’s onwards led to a friendship that endured.
The most humble and understated of men, despite his legendary status, he always projected an unaffected warmth and ease.
When Steve Winwood was first in Nashville we invited him to a party at which Joe B. and Jane were in attendance. When introduced, Steve went to his knees and kissed Joe B’s hands….when Keith Richards inducted The Crickets into the Musicians’ Hall Of Fame, his reaction was somewhat similar. Joe always seemed a little bemused by the adulation, but accepted it graciously.
As a youngster, it was beyond my wildest dreams that I’d ever be able to number Joe B. among my dear family friends, but what a blessing it was!
Deepest condolences to Jane and the girls; and his lifelong buddies, Jerry (J.I.) Allison, and Sonny Curtis
More about Joe B.: