God, I’m just a fat bald guy, 60 years old, singing the blues, you know?
It’s all a matter of hearing what I like and seeing if I can make it fit into my style.
MK: Who are your favorite contemporary singers?
BD: Oh, let me see, Joe Cocker, I suppose. Graham Nash can sing. Van Morrison’s fantastic.
And so is Stevie Wonder, but of all of them, Joe’s the greatest.
~Bob Dylan (to Martin Killer – July 1983)
With A Little Help From My Friends- 1969 Woodstock:
You are so beautiful (Live):
John Robert Cocker
Also known as
Vance Arnold, The Sheffield Soul Shouter
20 May 1944 (age 69)
Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, UK
Blues, rock, blues-rock, blue-eyed soul
Musician, songwriter, actor
Vocals, harmonica, guitar, drums
John Robert “Joe” Cocker OBE (born 20 May 1944) is an English rock and blues singer, who came to popularity in the 1960s, and is known for his gritty voice, his idiosyncratic arm movements while performing, and his cover versions of popular songs, particularly those of the Beatles.
He is the recipient of several awards, including a 1983 Grammy Award for his #1 hit “Up Where We Belong”, a duet he performed with Jennifer Warnes. He was ranked #97 on Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest singers list.
“Just look at the picture of him with the acoustic guitar: His fingers are in the weirdest position. If you’re a guitar player looking at that, you know this is a guy who’s not even thinking; he’s just there. … The soul of his creative originality plays a huge part in music making for everyone who’s ever written a song and really known what they’re doing.”
“You think you’re getting a handle on playing the blues, and then you hear Robert Johnson — some of the rhythms he’s doing and playing and singing at the same time, you think, ‘This guy must have three brains!’ ”
Favorite album? I think the Robert Johnson album. I listen to that quite a bit still.
~Bob Dylan (Rockline interview – June 1985)
Cross Road Blues:
Robert Leroy Johnson
May 8, 1911
August 16, 1938 (aged 27)
Delta blues, Country blues
Guitar, vocals, harmonica
Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) was an American blues singer and musician. His landmark recordings from 1936–37 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that have influenced later generations of musicians. Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including a Faustian myth. As an itinerant performer who played mostly on street corners, in juke joints, and at Saturday night dances, Johnson enjoyed little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime.
Johnson’s records sold poorly during his lifetime. It was only after the reissue of his recordings in 1961 on the LP King of the Delta Blues Singers that his work reached a wider audience. Johnson is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly of the Mississippi Delta blues style. He is credited by many rock musicians as an important influence; Eric Clapton has called Johnson “the most important blues singer that ever lived.” Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an “Early Influence” in their first induction ceremony in 1986. In 2003, David Fricke ranked Johnson fifth in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Me and the Devil Blues:
…Johnson’s major influence has been on genres of music that weren’t recognized as such until long after his death: rock and roll and rock. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included four of his songs in a set of 500 they deemed to have shaped the genre:
Johnson recorded these songs a decade and a half before the recognized advent of rock and roll, dying a year or two later. The Museum inducted him as an “Early Influence” in their first induction ceremony in 1986, almost a half century after his death. Marc Meyers of the Wall Street Journal wrote that, “His ‘Stop Breakin’ Down Blues’ from 1937 is so far ahead of its time that the song could easily have been a rock demo cut in 1954.
Our third entry in this series is a song that gets better and better and I really wonder what it could have been if they finished it. It is the song Watching Rainbows by The Beatles. Yes, there are still some unreleased gems out there.
Watching Rainbows is recorded on 14 January 1969 during the massive Get Back sessions at Twickenham Studios. It features John Lennon on lead vocal and electric piano, Paul McCartney on lead guitar, and Ringo Starr on drums. Bass guitar is absent from the song because Paul McCartney is playing George Harrison’s usual role as lead electric guitar.
Why was George absent? We’ll come to that, let us listen to the song first. Bare in mind that this is just as much a jam-session as a finished song, but we get a glimpse into what it could have been.
Watching Rainbows – The Beatles (1969):
George Harrison quit the band for a brief period starting on January 10th, 1969. At the time, The Beatles were practicing at the film studio, Twickenham, so that their rehearsals could be filmed. After a morning filed with verbal altercations between George and Paul, a quiet George Harrison eventually met up with the group and crew for lunch a bit late. Rather than joining them, he simply stated, “See you ’round the clubs” and disappeared.
The three remaining Beatles went back to the recording room not knowing what to do and unleashed an angry improvisational ruckus with John Lennon sarcastically leading the group to play The Who’s “A Quick One, While He’s Away.”
Days later, word got back to Harrison that Lennon had mentioned bringing in Eric Clapton as a replacement, which Lennon had probably said as a ploy to get George back rather than a real solution. After a five-hour meeting, Harrison rejoined the group on January 15th, 1969.
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” isn’t a plea to save a love affair; it’s Marvin Gaye’s essay on salvaging the human spirit. The record distills four hundred years of paranoia and talking drum gossip into three minutes and fifteen seconds of anguished soul-searching.
~Dave Marsh (The Heart of Rock & Soul)
October 30, 1968
April 10, 1967
Hitsville USA (Studio A)
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” is a song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Motown Records in 1966, and made famous by Marvin Gaye in a single released in October 1968 on Motown’s Tamla label.
Originally recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles in 1966, that version was rejected by Motown owner Berry Gordy, who told Whitfield and Strong to make it stronger. After recording the song with Marvin Gaye in 1967, which Gordy also rejected, Whitfield produced a version with Gladys Knight & the Pips, which Gordy agreed to release as a single in September 1967, and which went to number two in the Billboard chart. The Marvin Gaye version was placed on his 1968 album In the Groove, where it gained the attention of radio disc jockeys, and Gordy finally agreed to its release as a single in October 1968, when it went to the top of the Billboard Pop Singles chart for seven weeks from December 1968 to January 1969 and became for a time the biggest hit single on the Motown label. The Gaye recording has since become acclaimed a soul classic:
in 2004, it was placed on the Rolling Stone list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
On the commemorative 50th Anniversary of the Billboard Hot 100 issue of Billboard magazine in June 2008, Marvin Gaye’s “Grapevine” was ranked 65th
It was also inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant” value
Live at Montreux, 1980:
Whitfield recorded the song with Marvin Gaye over five sessions, the first on February 3, 1967, and the final one on April 10, 1967. Recordings of this version took more than a month due to Whitfield overdubbing Gaye’s vocals with that of the Andantes’ background vocals, mixing in several tracks featuring the Funk Brothers on the rhythm track, and adding the string section from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with an arrangement by Paul Riser. The session featuring Gaye led to an argument between the producer and singer. Whitfield wanted Gaye to perform the song in a higher key than his normal range, a move that had worked on David Ruffin during the recording of the Temptations’ hit, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”. The mixture of Gaye’s raspy vocals and the Andantes’ sweeter harmonies, made Whitfield confident that he had a hit; however, despite approval from Motown’s Quality Control Department, Gordy blocked the release.
Lead vocals by Marvin Gaye
Background vocals by The Andantes: Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow and Louvain Demps
Instrumentation by the Funk Brothers and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
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1. Visions Of Johanna
2. Like A Rolling Stone
3. Tangled Up in Blue
4. Ballad Of A Thin Man
5. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
6. Blind Willie McTell (electric version)
7. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
8. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
9. Desolation Row
10. Idiot Wind (New York version)