Saturday, March 03, 2018

Joe Cocker - Mad Dog With Soul

Joe Cocker was one of the many artists who burst on the scene via the move Woodstock, with his tremendous version of "With a Little Help From My Friends". The single had actually gotten some serious airplay previous to the movie, but the film catapulted him into stardom. Only a few years before, he had been a pudgy British teen mimicking Ray Charles in the local pub and suddenly he was a slightly psychotic r'n'r blues belter rock star.

The interviews with Joe and his band are classic, but I kinda lose interest when boring f*ks like Billy Joel are put on the screen. But, of course, his work with massive artists like Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge and Bobby Keys and Claudia Lennear and the majestic'n'massive gospel troupe, Mad Dogs and Englishmen line-up will forever go down in rock history. Although the MD&E tour was a fantastic success musically, if not financially, it took a major toll on Joe - he did drugs, his psyche was shattered and his personality changed. Despite his enormous profile, he dropped out of the music scene for 2 years before making a comeback of sorts, although his self-destructive habits jinxed it.

Funnily, the documentary skips his huge hits "High Time We Went"/"Feelin' Alright" and goes straight to the maudlin'n'murky "You Are So Beautiful" - a smash, but an albatross and a terrible ballad. Unfortunately, half of the doc is Joe in his wimpiest days, although the story is still compelling - like when management gets him a band that is sober, in the hopes of helping him, but then augments it with Bobby Keys and Nicky Hopkins - hardly clean-cut kids! The shows and the band were not up to his old standards, though. His material gets weaker and weaker and although his popularity rises, he changes from an exciting rock/blue/soul belter to a forgettable AOR, pop/pap crooner. I'm glad for his fortune, but artistically, it is a travesty that an artist with so much power and potential turned into something forgettable.

The later years are dull, but it led to his international success and celebrity, although he had to fight years of alcoholism (which he eventually conquered). He did seem to find happiness with his wife in a quiet life in Colorado, but the years of abuse and hard work eventually caught up with him and he died of cancer at 70.

An interesting life, to be sure, but most rock'n'rollers will really only be interested in the first part of this doc.