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Written by Roy Black

Joe Cocker has lost it. The decades of drinking, drug abuse and smoking have destroyed his once iconic voice. Tonight I went to a double feature at The Greek Theater in LA of Huey Lewis and the News, and Joe Cocker.

Huey opened the show and was as expected. He is not a favorite of mine. I went to hear Joe Cocker. The Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour was the best rock concert I have ever experienced. I still listen to the live album. Leon Russell produced and co-starred along with Rita Coolidge doing backup.

But as soon as Joe opened his mouth tonight it was obvious he had lost his voice. He never had a great tone but I loved his voice. He had a gritty edge to his voice that was never harmonious but was captivating. Who can forget him singing “You are so Beautiful.”

He still does the spastic air guitar that mimics MS albeit a little slower than before. Joe tried hard to cover up his vocal inadequacy without success. I was shocked he was still performing. I left halfway through his set. Joe needs “a little help from his friends.” Joe, it is over. Time to retire. Hang it up.

And why should we be surprised? In the Mad Dogs tour, he would guzzle down a quart of vodka while singing then vomit on stage. I bet that puts a lot of miles on the vocal chords.

Joe Cocker had a wonderful asset and he didn’t take care of it. He didn’t protect, nurture and enhance his voice, and now it is gone forever. Today Joe has gone from a rock icon to an object lesson. Let’s not forget the lesson.

Addendum: On a whim I checked youtube and it had concert footage from Mad Dogs. It refreshed my ancient memory — the insanity, the rawness, the craziness of it all. What visceral performances. He and Leon had a huge band and they all went nuts. Save your money, don’t go to the concert, just watch youtube for the real performance. It was an unforgetable night.

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5 Comments to Joe Cocker

  1. August 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    So long Joe; it was a good run wasn’t it?!

    Who was it that said; “fame is fleeting, but obscurity lasts forever”?

    As he walks off stage into the darkness………………………….

    Lesson learned? Quit while you’re ahead!!

  2. August 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Very strange indeed. Horrible voice and not a good singer but I loved to hear him sing. I have almost all his songs on my iPod. Initially I thought it was the visuals that made him. He sang like he had severe nerve damage or some kind of epileptic disorder. But when I listened to his songs while riding my bike, that was not the answer. I guess not knowing what made it all sound so good was the secret. My favorite? Darling Be Home Soon.
    And for a real strange duo, check this out:
    That’s right. Tom Jones. Sorry for those who want to really do out on a limb. He never sang with Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole

  3. Mrs. Strong's Gravatar Mrs. Strong
    October 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I have to say I found these comments very harsh and unfounded. Joe has obviously aged, as has his voice, but he is still selling out shows and doing very well for himself. All musicians of his era did drugs, drank, and things that were not the best choice in general, or for their vocal cords- but these criticisms are incredible harsh.

    To mock his presence on stage is foolish, it’s his trademark. It may be strange, but is that what defines a musician? No.

    Joe is an amazing person, and yes, I personally know this; not only that, he is an amazing talent.
    Overall, he seems to be doing just fine with “a little help from his friends [fans].”

  4. Roy Black's Gravatar Roy Black
    October 15, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    @Mrs. Strong: Harsh? I think I pulled punches. I had to flee the concert half way through because his voice sounded like a damaged record. Joe’s voice is destroyed. No one should pay to hear it. He is selling out shows because people think they are getting the old joe cocker. They have no idea what he sounds like today. Someone should tell them. He is like one of those over-the-hill boxers weaving around the ring just hoping for another payday. I am sure he is a nice person but people are not paying for nice. They are expecting Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Joe can’t deliver that.

  5. Mrs. Strong's Gravatar Mrs. Strong
    October 16, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    @Roy Black: You say people think they are getting the old Joe, but if they spent the time to search and pay for the tickets, I think it’s safe to assume they know what he sounds like and even enjoy it. How can you speak for everyone saying “they don’t know what he sounds like today”- do you know them all personally? Did you walk out half way through the concert, stay in the parking lot and ask all of the hundreds of people who did stay for the entire show if they knew what Joe sounded like prior to the concert? I think the fact that most people did stay for the entire concert shows that they do in fact know what he sounds like now, like it, and were willing to pay and stay for his entire show.

    Most importantly, and most obvious- if you or anyone else was expecting a Mad Dogs and Englishmen concert you should have bought those tickets in the 1970’s.

    PS- It’s 2012, that album therefore is 42 years old. Think about it.

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