It's one of the most indelible images in rock 'n' roll, that of Joe Cocker, clad in tie dye, twitching and gyrating onstage at Woodstock, singing with that whiskey-soaked voice that became his stock in trade. For most, it proved an auspicious introduction to a rough-and-tumble young singer from the north of England who had an uncanny ability to interpret well-known material and make it all his own.
In the years to come, Cocker would remain a persistent presence, whether standing at the helm of his own Grease band, sharing the stage with the sprawling communal aggregate christened as Mad Dogs and Englishmen, or straddling the middle of the road with his biggest hit of all, "Up Where We Belong," the soaring ballad he shared with Jennifer Warnes.
We spoke with the musician about everything from his frustrated stage moves to the clever vocals of John Belushi when impersonating him. Ensconced at his Mad Dog Ranch, in Crawford, Colorado, located in the remote reaches of the Colorado Rockies, Cocker turned out to be surprisingly down-to-earth, willing to open up about his history, and as gracious and engaging as any musician I've ever encountered.