Singer Joe Cocker passed away on Monday, Dec. 22 at the age of 70. Read CPR News' obit.
One of the most fun things about radio is you never know who might walk in the door at any given time.
Crawford, Colo., resident Joe Cocker needed an ISDN hookup with NPR on the day he came in to CPR shortly after OpenAir had launched. So there was no prep time, I wasn't even sure he was going to have time to talk to us, but he did.
We sat down and started talking. He was stopping off on his way to DIA, from where he was going to take a flight over the North Pole to Moscow to play for "some rich oil person." He confided they paid him ridiculous money for these private parties so it was worth the wear and tear.
On we went, through "Mad Dogs & Englishmen," the 1970 concert movie that is such iconic chaos, into memories of Woodstock (he had some!), his time with Leon Russell and to his early albums and fame. I asked him about the Belushi imitation (he loved it) and tried to get him into the CPR Performance Studio, if not that day some time in the future.
Joe told me he loved Colorado, that's why he moved here. He absorbed the seasons and the nature; he fished the Gunnison River. He built two greenhouses to grow tomatoes.
But he didn't like singing at altitude. He'd done it, for his charity "Cocker Kids," but his Colorado romance was for reasons other than singing.
You can hear the conversation above. From there we had photo ops and Joe was fine with that. He wanted coffee and rummaged through my desk until he found something dark, French Roast. Then he signed a real guitar, although he's better known for his air guitar.
Cocker's passion and his strength are evident in every song he ever put on record. The image of him under Woodstock clouds, flailing in his tie-dyed shirt on "With a Little Help from My Friends" (which is almost three times as long as the Beatles original) may be the one that sticks with the culture however the Woodstock Centennial is remembered in 2069.
For all of this he remained a powerful but humble bar singer who got on a lucky streak, so fabulous that his star never faded even during his high-profile "retirement" in Colorado.