My first exposure to Cocker was when my oldest brother, John, played “Feelin’ Alright” for me to hear. I was just a wee little lad, but there was something about his voice that made me want to hear more. I remember asking my brother if he had other music from Joe Cocker, and my brother then pointed out that he sang a song I had probably heard before, the wonderful duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong.”
“THAT’S Joe Cocker???” I asked.
What an incredibly versatile singer… especially with the kind of voice that sounds like his diet consists of sandpaper, nuts and bolts, and steel wool.
So for a while, I drowned myself in Joe Cocker music. I picked up his debut album, then the classic live Mad Dogs and Englishmen record (one of the BEST live albums ever), and then found a 4-disc box set, The Long Voyage Home.
In this box set, I discovered the greatest Joe Cocker song you probably haven’t heard before.
“Wake Up Little Susie,” The Everly Brothers’ hit, has been completely transformed here into a groovin’, movin’, bad-ass harpoonin’ song that always leaves me breathless. It’s just drums, piano, bass, some percussion, and Joe. The credits include Leon Russell, and Chris Stainton… I wish I knew the rest of the players on this awesome track. Who knows? Maybe everything was played by these guys. I don’t know.
What I do know, though, is that you must listen to this. MUST.
I’ve already played it 5 times in a row. I’m completely jazzed up right now and I want to play some music.
And that’s what Joe Cocker has always done for me: he makes me want to PLAY. He makes me want to find a song and not only play it, but figure out what it means to me and play it THAT way. In my opinion, Cocker is one of the great music interpreters. He makes the song his own and isn’t shy about it. We all know how he took “With a Little Help From My Friends” away from The Beatles… well, this version of “Wake Up Little Susie” is the only version I listen to now. I honestly can’t even listen to the original anymore. That’s not a knock on The Everly Brothers… I’m just saying that, to me, Joe Cocker’s version is THAT good.
Did you listen to it yet? If you haven’t, you’re truly missing out.
And now we will be missing out… we lost one of the great singers/musicians/artists in the world. He helped shape rock music. He brought the blues to another demographic. He changed what a touring band means. He did so many things, least of which include inspiring me to continue to work on my craft.
Thank you, Joe. We never met, but you made a difference in my life. That’s the beauty of art… you never know who you are going to touch.