Two English rock singers channeled the voice of Ray Charles, each in his own unmistakable style. The first was Stevie Winwood, who has been at it since he was about 15 and is still going strong. The second was Joe Cocker; Cocker died today at the age of 70, well before his time. The New York Times has posted an obituary here.
In its preliminary notice on Cocker’s death the Times posted the video of Cocker singing “With a Little Help From My Friends” at Woodstock in 1969. I’m going with “The Letter,” in which Cocker is backed by the band Leon Russell threw together on a moment’s notice for Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour the following year. I believe that’s the late, great Bobby Keys on sax in the video below; Keys passed away earlier this month, also at the age of 70. In the video, Leon smokes something that seems to make his eyelids heavy and plays the tasty piano accompaniment at the same time, while Cocker is just plain smokin’. RIP.
UPDATE: A reader adds: “He was one of the great manly voices of our time, and he always sang like he meant it. A real loss!” Reader Mark Zoeller writes from Denver: “Sad news about smokin’ Joe. He spent the last ten years or so at his Mad Dog Ranch (basically, an English manor house he built) just outside of Crawford, CO, about ten miles from Paonia where my parents settled about the same time. Delta County is a farming, ranching and mining community and is one of the poorest in the state. What you undoubtedly won’t read about is that Joe and his wife worked tirelessly at raising money for children’s causes (libraries, boys and girls clubs, etc.) out there for the better part of those ten years. He and his efforts will be missed by a lot of people.” Mark draws attention to this Denver Post obituary covering the local Colorado angle. On a local note of our own, I learn from the Star Tribune’s Chris Riemenschneider that the indoor footage in the video above was filmed in Minneapolis at First Avenue (then The Depot).