Tributes as Sheffield icon Joe Cocker dies, aged 70.

Sheffield rock legend Joe Cocker has died, aged 70 - tonight tributes flooded in from music greats in Sheffield and around the world, writes Graham Walker.

The singing superstar, the city’s first global music icon, rose to fame in the Sixites, had hits with The Beatles’ song With A Little Help From My Friends and later, in a duet with Jennifer Warnes, Up Where We Belong

A long-time US resident, he died at home in Colorado.

It is reported that he died after a battle with lung cancer.

The sad news of his death was confirmed tonight by his agent Barrie Marshall, but who said he had died of an undisclosed illness.

He said he was “simply unique” and “it will be impossible to fill the space he leaves in our hearts.”

Cocker was born in Sheffield and by 1961 was living a double life, working as a gas fitter by day and transforming himself into a club singer at night.

In 2007 he was installed into the city’s Hall of Fame. That same year he was awarded an OBE for his services to music.

Tonight South Yorkshire greats of past and present paid tribute to him.

Tony Christie, who remembered drinking with him at the Black Swan, known affectionately at the Mucky Duck, said: “He was a tremendous talent. When I first heard With A Little Help From My Friends I was blown away. I had never heard anything like it - such power. His death is such a sad loss.”

Sheffield’s Grammy award winning Eliot Kennedy and song writing pal Bryan Adams said they were honoured when Cocker recorded a song they wrote for him just a few years ago, called She Believes In Me.

“His death is terrible news. A tragedy. He will be remembered as Sheffield legend who was know the world over. We have lost a real winner there,” said Eliot, who is working on a new Broadway musical in New York.

Fellow rock singer Bryan tweeted: “Joe Cocker has died. RIP my good friend, you were one of the best rock singers ever.”

Sheffield’s ABC front man Martin Fry said: “ A piece of Sheffield has died.

“He was the first star to come out of the city who went international. His voice was known the world over. I’m shocked to hear of his death. Very sad.”

Sheffield indie star Jon McClure, of Reverend and the Makers, described Cocker as Sheffield first working class hero and an inspiration to generations of musicians in the city and beyond.

“He was a genuine Sheffield success story. From gas fitter to Woodstock in months. His story inspired so many of us,” he said.

“His voice will never be forgotten and he will be sadly missed.”

Sheffield Sixties star and Crying Game hit maker Dave Berry said: “I’m absolutely devastated. I grew up with Joe in Sheffield in the early 60s - we were playing in the same venues.

“He was a true artist. You start off as an entertainer then you become an artist and he became an artist.

“He was a very unassuming man in his later years. He had become a very caring person. Not like the time when he came to a party here in Dronfield in the 70s and he was so out of it that when I spoke to him about it afterwards he couldn’t even remember being here! But that was the dim and distant past - his wild days when he used to come back to Sheffield where his mum and dad lived.”

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney led global tributes to the man who was perhaps best known for his cover of The Beatles’ song With A Little Help From My Friends, which reached number one in the UK in 1968.

Sir Paul said: “It’s really sad to hear about Joe’s passing. He was a lovely northern lad who I loved a lot and, like many people, I loved his singing

“I was especially pleased when he decided to cover With A Little Help From My Friends and I remember him and (producer) Denny Cordell coming round to the studio in Savile Row and playing me what they’d recorded and it was just mind-blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful for him for doing that.

“I knew him through the years as a good mate and I was so sad to hear that he had been ill and really sad to hear today that he had passed away. He was a great guy, a lovely guy who brought so much to the world and we’ll all miss him.”

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to his friend, saying: “Goodbye and God bless to Joe Cocker from one of his friends, peace and love.”

Rick Wakeman, keyboard player for progressive rock band Yes, called his hit With a Little Help From My Friends “sensational” and said: “He had a voice that was just unique.”

He told BBC Radio 2: “He was a very nice guy, as well as being a very talented guy.

“It is very, very sad for all his family and friends and for all who loved him. The great thing is with someone like Joe is what they leave behind, and that will be with us for years and years.”

He added: “People talk about stage presence, and he really had it.”

Josh Saviano, who played Paul Joseph Pfeiffer in The Wonder Years, the coming-of-age show soundtracked by Cocker’s version of With a Little Help from my Friends, said: “We all lent Joe our ear, and he sang us a mighty song #RIPJoeCocker”

Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler said: “We loved you forever, we will miss you always. RIP Joe Cocker.”

Batman star Val Kilmer tweeted: “Ah. What a mighty mighty original voice is gone. Joe Cocker one of the all time soul of Rock and Roller Kings will be missed forever.”

Retired cricketer Michael Vaughan, who grew up in Sheffield, said: “A favourite Sheffield Son has left us today.... #RIP #JoeCocker”

Ben Haenow, who won this year’s X Factor, said: “Sad to hear Joe Cocker has passed away. Such an inspiration and an absolute legend.”

Classic rock songwriter and musician Peter Frampton said: “So sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s passing. ‘You are so beautiful’ is both Joe and Nicky Hopkins piano at their very best. Gonna play it now RIP”

Singer-songwriter Frank Turner tweeted: “Wow. Sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s passing. Incredible singer.”

Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe said: “One of the greats, Joe Cocker R.I.P.”

Irish pop star Ronan Keating said: “So sad to hear of Joe Cocker passing. What a brilliant and unique voice. Peace”

And British comedian Ricky Gervais also paid tribute, saying: “RIP the mighty Joe Cocker.”

Edgar Berger, chairman and chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment International, who signed Cocker, said: “Joe Cocker is a legendary artist of rock and blues history and yet he was one of the most humble men I’ve ever met.

“His iconic voice will forever be etched in our memories and our thoughts go out to Joe’s wife Pam and his family at this difficult time. Joe will live on in the hearts of millions of fans around the world.”

Cocker was born in May 1944 in Sheffield, where he lived until his early twenties.

He came to prominence in the early 1960s, famous for his distinctive gravelly voice.

His cover of A Little Help From My Friends reached number one in the UK in 1968, and a year later he performed the song at the famous Woodstock Festival, which helped launch his career.

He won his first Grammy in 1983 and an Oscar for his duet with Jennifer Warnes, Up Where We Belong, from the Richard Gere film An Officer And A Gentleman, and in 2011 he received an OBE for his contribution to music.

A prolific artist, he released 40 albums during his lengthy career.

Away from music he enjoyed long walks in the mountains with his dogs, fly fishing, playing snooker with friends, and growing tomatoes in his greenhouse.

He is survived by his wife, his brother Victor, his step-daughter Zoey and two grandchildren.


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