POP CULTURE

Joe Cocker’s Dylan Covers Continue To Reward Listeners

With a little help from his friends.

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Joe Cocker and his Grease Band at Woodstock, 1969. Public domain.

Bob Dylan earned the Nobel Prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” He not only consumed the music, he re-shaped it, gave it new luster, and shared it in new forms. It would be comparable to inventing and adding new colors to the rainbow.

Now available to all, countless artists have inhaled the new “colors” Dylan gave us and proceeded to take them to new and remarkable places and spaces. One of these performer/interpreters was the incomparable Joe Cocker, who passed from us in 2014 but has not been forgotten.

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Joe Cocker

There are certain performers whose distinctive qualities set them apart as one of a kind, and Cocker was one of them. He’d been around for many years before he exploded on the scene in 1969 with his first United States tour, which included Woodstock. His re-interpretation of “With A Little Help From My Friendsestablished him as a seriously notable performer. (It didn’t hurt that his friends included Jimmy Page, drummer B.J. Wilson and Tommy Eyre on the organ.)

After three years with his Grease Band, he assembled Mad Dogs & Englishmen, continuing a life of recording and performing. Once Joe Cocker embraced a song and reconfigured it, it became his own.

Here are nine Dylan songs that Joe Cocker recorded. Most, like Dear Landlord, were already familiar by the time he gave them renewed electricity. Others were not released by Dylan himself till much later. (Even lifetime fans have been repeatedly surprised and impressed by the contents of what keeps coming out of the Dylan vault.) Here are five emotion-laden tunes that are among my favorites.

Dear Landlord ( Joe Cocker!, 1969)

Just Like A Woman ( With a Little Help from My Friends, 1969) Amazing.

Watching the River Flow ( Luxury You Can Afford, 1978) — Joe Cocker and the gang ratchet things up with this live performance in Italy. Love it. But then, here he is belting it out in San Francisco . Blues rock bliss. Mmmmm, yeah.

Dignity ( Organic, 1996) Another great selection.

Let’s close it out with this wonderful version of Ring Them Bells ( Hymn for My Soul, 2007) from Dylan’s Oh Mercy.

Want more Joe Cocker interpretations of Dylan? These are also easy to find and enjoy.

Seven Days (Sheffield Steel, 1982) was released by Dylan on his Bootleg Series: Rare & Unreleased in 1991.

I Shall Be Released (With a Little Help from My Friends, 1969)

Catfish (Stingray, 1976)

And a laid back Reggae version of The Man In Me (Stingray, 1976)

Trivia: Tommy Eyre, who played the organ on Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends, married Scarlet Rivera in 1991, to whom he was wed till he died from cancer in the summer of 2001. Scarlet has become a “special friend of the Northland” with many fans here as a result of her performances on behalf of the Duluth Armory (among other things.) Bringing this blog post full circle, Scarlet’s imaginative violin work contributed to the distinctive sound Dylan’s Desire album. Being recruited to travel with the Rolling Thunder Revue helped ignite her own career as a performer.

Acknowledgement: Source for the nine songs, the tribute to Joe Cocker at Positively Bob Dylan .

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An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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