Rock star Joe Cocker dead at 70

Fans and friends joined with rock legends new and old in paying tribute to legendary Sheffield-born singer Joe Cocker, who died yesterday aged 70.

Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton at a Sheffield charity concert in 1993
Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton at a Sheffield charity concert in 1993

Renowned for his distinctive voice, the Sheffield-born rock and blues singer succumbed to lung cancer after a long and successful career that included performing for President George HW Bush and winning a Grammy.

His friend Rick Wakeman, keyboard player for progressive rock band Yes, called his hit With a Little Help From My Friends “sensational” and said: “He had a voice that was just unique.”

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He told BBC Radio 2: “He was a very nice guy, as well as being a very talented guy.

Joe Cocker - November 1969

“It is very, very sad for all his family and friends and for all who loved him. The great thing is with someone like Joe is what they leave behind, and that will be with us for years and years.”

He added: “People talk about stage presence, and he really had it.”

Josh Saviano, who played Paul Joseph Pfeiffer in The Wonder Years, the coming-of-age show soundtracked by Cocker’s version of With a Little Help from my Friends, said: “We all lent Joe our ear, and he sang us a mighty song #RIPJoeCocker”

Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler said: “We loved you forever, we will miss you always. RIP Joe Cocker.”

Joe Cocker at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield in 1982

Batman star Val Kilmer tweeted: “Ah. What a mighty mighty original voice is gone. Joe Cocker one of the all time soul of Rock and Roller Kings will be missed forever.”

Former England Test captain and Yorkshire star Michael Vaughan, who grew up in Sheffield, said: “A favourite Sheffield Son has left us today.... #RIP #JoeCocker”

Ben Haenow, who won this year’s X Factor, said: “Sad to hear Joe Cocker has passed away. Such an inspiration and an absolute legend.”

Fellow rock singer Bryan Adams tweeted: “Joe Cocker has died. RIP my good friend, you were one of the best rock singers ever.”

Classic rock songwriter and musician Peter Frampton said: “So sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s passing. ‘You are so beautiful’ is both Joe and Nicky Hopkins piano at their very best. Gonna play it now RIP”

Singer-songwriter Frank Turner tweeted: “Wow. Sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s passing. Incredible singer.”

Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe said: “One of the greats, Joe Cocker R.I.P.”

Irish pop star Ronan Keating said: “So sad to hear of Joe Cocker passing. What a brilliant and unique voice. Peace”

And British comedian Ricky Gervais also paid tribute, saying: “RIP the mighty Joe Cocker.”

Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr said of his friend: “Goodbye and God bless to Joe Cocker from one of his friends, peace and love.”

The son of a civil servant, Cocker was born in May 1944, living in Sheffield until his early twenties.

He worked as a gas fitter while gigging in local pubs and clubs and came to prominence in the early 1960s, famous for his distinctive gravelly voice.

A close friend of George Harrison and Paul McCartney, he shared a stage with other musical legends the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, his flailing arms and physical idiosyncrasies on stage winning him fans as much as his voice did.

His cover of A Little Help From My Friends reached number one in the UK in 1968, and a year later he performed the song at the famous Woodstock Festival, which helped launch his career and became the theme song for the TV series The Wonder Years.

In 1970 Cocker embarked on a major tour of the US, performing in 48 cities with a band of over 40 musicians called Mad Dogs And Englishmen and recording a third gold album and a concert film.

He is survived by his wife Pam, his brother Victor, his step-daughter Zoey and two grandchildren.