During my recent interview with Keb’ Mo’, viewable elsewhere on The Musical Box as a preview story for his Jan. 28 concert at the Lexington Opera House, I asked about Joe Cocker. The late vocalist, who died Dec. 22, befriended Mo’ early in his career and eventually invited him on the road as an opening act. Mo’ replied with a detailed tribute of Cocker that deserves to be shared in its entirety.
Here is a glimpse of the Joe Cocker that Keb Mo’ knew.
“Joe Cocker was amazing to me. The first time I met him was in the early ‘70s – probably ’73 – backstage at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. He opened the door and fell down drunk right in front of me. Really. Literally. I’m like, ‘Holy (expletive). Here I am, 22 years old and Joe Cocker has fallen on the floor drunk right in front of me.’
“Now I had been listening to Mad Dogs and Englishmen and to all of his earlier stuff for at least a couple of years. I was a huge fan of Joe Cocker, so what I saw didn’t bother me. A few years later You Are So Beautiful came out. He came back again and I started listening to him all over again. Then early on in my career, he let me open for him. We did a whole tour and he took very good care of me.
“One of the last times I saw Joe Cocker was in Aspen. He shouted out, ‘Hey Keb. How are you doing there?’ I was playing a solo show, so he said, ‘Still can’t afford a band, eh?’ There he was ragging on me. His wife was great, too – the sweetest woman and such a supporter of him.
“I’ve been listening to Joe Cocker my whole life, and every time I saw him sing, he sounded better. He was not declining. He just sang better every time. Listening to him, I would just be like, ‘Whoa.’
“Joe Cocker, to me… I mean, what a life. What a musical treasure for the world. What a life well lived. When I first met him, he was not a man without problems. He was an inebriated man who had fallen on the floor in front of me. But who had actually fallen was a giant, a genius, an icon. Throughout my life, he was one of the folks that showed me that you don’t judge people. You don’t judge people based on where they are at any moment in their life. You look at what they do and how they are. Joe Cocker, Dr. John and Charlie Musselwhite, people like that, have taught me that lesson in a huge way.
“I was never into drugs or anything like that. That was ever a problem for me so I never understood how it was a problem for anyone else. But I do understand what it means to be human, about what it means to fail and to get back up and be who you are despite the demons.
“So I thank Joe Cocker and I’m so grateful for him being in my life.”