Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Joe Cocker

In thinking of the many artists snubbed from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I must admit that I did not readily think of Joe Cocker. Given that there has been a large amount of bands and acts from the 1960’s that have been inducted, including some relatively obviously second-tier acts, Joe Cocker flew under the radar as far as I was concerned until I read that Billy Joel was campaigning for him to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame shortly before his death late last year [1]. Realizing that Joe Cocker had not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and that he had some influential backing from an inductee whose music I view highly [2], I felt it necessary to examine the case for induction for Joe Cocker, given that he was a singer with a lengthy and successful career (including a few seminal interpretations of songs) who was primarily known as a song stylist rather than a songwriter. To be sure, there are many artists and bands who wrote songs that are worthy of induction, but as a song stylist, Joe Cocker’s case for induction must rest on his own distinctive and somewhat gravelly voice.

The Influence Of Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker’s influence can be traced openly through a look at three songs. At the beginning of his career, he sang a cover of the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.” The song hit #1 in England and became memorable in the United States as the theme song for the hit television show “The Wonder Years.” In the mid 1970’s, he sang “You Are So Beautiful,” and the song hit #5 in the United States. Then, in the early 1980’s, he had a #1 hit (and won numerous awards) for a duet with Jennifer Warnes called “Up Where We Belong,” from the film An Officer And A Gentleman. After this he continued to record hits, but these three signature songs are ones that any singer would have been envious to be remembered by [3]. Together, when one looks at the total array of hit singles, like “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” “The Letter,” “Cry Me A River,” “High Time We Went,” “Feeling Alright,” “Midnight Rider,” and “When The Night Comes,” along with a record of hit albums going from 1969 to 2012 and performances at Woodstock as well as Woodstock ’94, one sees a career that was marked by excellence despite the artist’s reluctance to tour and struggles with alcoholism and depression.

Why Joe Cocker Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Let us enumerate the reasons why Joe Cocker deserves a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. For one, he had a lengthy career where he was recognized by his peers as a major artist worthy of recognition, as seen by his regular place on lists of the best singers all time and his ability to perform in Woodstock and in its revival in 1994 and in his endorsement by peers like Billy Joel for induction. Having influential friends certainly speaks at least indirectly as to one’s own influence, as does the fact that artists like the Beatles (and others) regularly appreciated Joe Cocker’s definitive interpretations of their songs. The hit success of his song interpretations marks another case for his induction, given the fact that he had hit singles for a couple of decades and successful albums over a span of over 40 years. A third element to his case for induction is the fact that his work so regularly appeared in film and television work, in works as diverse as “Across The Universe,” “The Bodyguard,” “An Officer And A Gentleman,” and “The Wonder Years,” some of which remain airplay staples today. Clearly, a career as successful as his merits induction, and it seems likely that he will be inducted at some point given the friendly terms he was on with other musicians as well as journalists. Too bad he didn’t survive to see his induction.

Why Joe Cocker Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

It must be admitted that the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has forgotten or neglected many artists and whole genres. It is quite likely that in the absence of a large and vocal cheering section that his candidacy simply fell through the cracks, as it did in my own examination of artists worthy of induction. Perhaps the recent support of Billy Joel will be of assistance in giving his candidacy some additional attention.

Verdict: There are a lot of artists and bands worthy of induction that remain on the outside looking in, but Joe Cocker belongs there too.

[1] http://ultimateclassicrock.com/joe-cocker-health/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/book-review-billy-joel-the-definitive-biography/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/and-so-it-goes/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/glass-houses/

[3] See, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Cocker

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Cocker_discography

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About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Joe Cocker

  1. Pingback: Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Whitney Houston | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Mariah Carey | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Gary P says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with is article about this rather huge oversight by the R&RHOF. Joe Cocker was and still remains an icon of the Rock and Roll Golden Era of the 1960s and 70s. His soulful voice gave each song he sang a new perspective and a certain emotional rendering oftentimes missed by the original artist that performed them.

    • Yes, I definitely think that’s true, and he did what any good song interpreter does, and that is make the familiar sound fresh and original, and increase the appreciation people had for the original.

  4. John Keane says:

    Just watched the great new documentary on Joe that’s available on Netflix and was stunned to find out he’s not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. WTF, how could that be? Even if he went into obscurity after his amazing performance at Woodstock, he should’ve been in by now. He such an obvious choice and it’s a shame it didn’t happen while he was still alive.

    • I agree. Joe Cocker did not go into obscurity after Woodstock, and he is among the more puzzling omissions of his generation, to be sure, especially given the assistance he gave to songwriters by being such a talented interpreter of the songs of others.

  5. AJ says:

    It’s a joke that he’s not been inducted. I just read the list of those who have made it and Joe certainly had more influence, more fans, more record sales and a longer career than many of them. If these things aren’t the basis for induction, what is? It’s pathetic that he’s been snubbed.

  6. E Murchie says:

    If kISS is in there then Chubby Checker and Joe Cocker should have been there first. In the words of Daryl Hall, “that’s fucked up.”

  7. Tony manzoni says:

    My God Joe Cocker belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Just please stop and listen to his voice. He was beyond great. What a tragedy if you deny this immense talent.
    Tony Manzoni

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