Singer-songwriter Joe Cocker, known for his distinct, bluesy voice and his heartfelt renditions of Beatles classics, died in his Colorado home on Monday following a battle with lung cancer. One of Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Singers, Cocker was 70. The British singer’s agent, Barrie Marshall, confirmed the death to the BBC, adding that Cocker was “simply unique” and “it will be impossible to fill the space he leaves in our hearts.”
“John Robert Cocker, known to family, friends, his community and fans around the world as Joe Cocker, passed away on December 22nd, 2014 after a hard fought battle with small cell lung cancer,” Sony Music wrote in a statement, via iTV. “Joe Cocker was born 5/20/1944 in Sheffield, England where he lived until his early 20s. In 2007 he was awarded the OBE by the Queen of England. His international success as a blues/rock singer began in 1964 and continues till this day. Joe created nearly 40 albums and toured extensively around the globe.”
“Goodbye and God bless to Joe Cocker from one of his friends, peace and love,” Ringo Starr tweeted. Cocker’s rendition of the Starr-sung Beatles classic “With a Little Help From My Friends” – later immortalized as the theme song from The Wonder Years – became one of his most enduring hits, along with covers of the Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” and Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful.” Cocker also scored a Number One hit in 1982 for his An Officer and a Gentleman duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong,” which went on to win a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal as well as the Best Original Song at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.
“He brought Ray Charles to the mix as an influence on rock & roll,” E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt said of Cocker for Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Singers. Over the course of a career that stretched six decades, Cocker released 22 studio albums as well as his famed live LP Mad Dogs & Englishmen. Cocker’s performance at Woodstock on August 17, 1969 is also regarded as one of the most iconic sets from the legendary festival. Twenty-five years later, Cocker returned to upstate New York for Woodstock ’94.
Billy Joel paid tribute to Cocker in September during a concert at Madison Square Garden, calling Cocker “a great singer who is not very well right now.” Joel added that “I think he should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m amazed that he’s not yet, but I’m throwing in my vote for Joe Cocker” before performing his own take on “With a Little Help From My Friends.”