Happy Birthday Joe Cocker: Performing Live From Berlin In 1997

Watch Joe deliver his signature interpretations of songs by The Beatles, Traffic, Bob Marley and more.

By Nate Todd May 20, 2022 10:33 am PDT

Today would have been Joe Cocker’s 78th birthday. The legendary rock singer was born on May 20, 1944 in Sheffield, England. Sadly, Cocker died on December 22, 2014 after a battle with lung cancer.

Cocker developed his signature rock ‘n’ roll rasp listening to the blues and was especially influenced by Ray Charles. Joe was literally moved by music, evidenced in his wild, air instrument-inflected stage presence. He just seemed to experience music deeply and it was perhaps this innate skill that made him a talented interpreter of other people’s music.

While Joe certainly wrote songs of his own, his major hits came from his ability to reinvent the songs of his peers, a daunting task considering that list included The Beatles, Traffic and more. Those bands are prime examples of Cocker’s interpretive skills, having scored his first hit in 1968 with his iconic rendition of The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers cut “With A Little Help From My Friends.” The cover impressed Paul McCartney and George Harrison so much they gave the green light for Joe to record their respective songs “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and “Something.”

Around the same time, Cocker recorded the Dave Mason-penned Traffic song “Feelin’ Alright?” While Traffic’s version is great, it failed to break into the charts while Joe’s — he interestingly dropped the question mark at the end — with its iconic piano, cracked the Billboard 100. More often than not, it’s Joe’s version that gets played on the radio to this day.

Cocker continued to reimagine songs throughout his career including some of his biggest hits beginning with Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful” in 1974. In 1982, Cocker’s cover of Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Will Jennings’ “Up Where We Belong,” a duet with Jennifer Warnes, appeared on the soundtrack for the film An Officer And A Gentleman. The song was one of Cocker’s most commercially successful and also garnered him a Grammy Award.

Years later, Joe tackled a song from another towering figure with his cover of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved,” which appeared on his 1997 album Across From Midnight. Joe would tour the record and brought his impressive production to Berlin’s Waldbuhne in ’97. Opening with the Marley classic, Cocker also included “Feelin’ Alright,” John Hiatt’s “Have A Little Faith In Me,” (which Joe recorded in 1987), “Up Where We Belong” and Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” early in the set.

Cocker also covered The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City,” Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful” and Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic.” His rendition of, “Delta Lady,” by his longtime collaborator Leon Russell came ahead of another early hit, the Box Tops’ “The Letter.” Joe nodded to his hero Ray Charles with “Unchain My Heart” ahead of a “With A Little Help From My Friends” to close the main set. The title track to Across From Midnight and “Cry Me A River” were included in the encore.

In honor of Joe Cocker, watch the beloved singer perform live from Berlin in 1997 below for this edition of Full Show Friday:


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