Joe Cocker, raspy-voiced British singer, dies at 70

Mon Dec 22, 2014 7:40pm EST
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By Eric Kelsey

(Reuters) - Joe Cocker, whose distinctive raspy voice and soulful musical renditions made him a favorite of his peers with hits like Beatles' cover "With a Little Help from My Friends" and "You Are So Beautiful," died on Monday. He was 70.

The British rock singer, famous for flailing his arms during performances, lost a long battle with lung cancer, said his label, Sony Music Entertainment, in a statement.

The Sheffield-born Cocker's rocky but ultimately successful career took him from working-class pubs in Northern England to the Woodstock festival in 1969, to the top of the charts in the 1980s.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney credited Cocker for giving "With a Little Help from My Friends," a mid-tempo melody, a whole new life.

"It was just mind blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful to him for doing that," McCartney said in a statement, calling the fellow Englishman a "lovely northern lad."

His explosive, at times unintelligible performance of that song at Woodstock helped him break through to larger audiences in what Rolling Stone magazine called "one of the most iconic sets from the legendary festival."

Cocker lived in Crawford, Colorado, and released nearly 40 albums as he toured the world during a career spanning five decades.

The Grammy winner was born into a working-class family and worked as a plumber while pursuing his singing career.   Continued...

British singer Joe Cocker speaks after receiving the trophy for Category 'lifetime achievement award music' during the 48th Golden Camera award ceremony in Berlin, February 2, 2013.  REUTERS/Maurizio Gambarini/Pool