Former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr both released statements Dec. 22 following the death of singer Joe Cocker. According to the New York Times, the veteran rock singer known best for his cover of the Lennon-McCartney song “With a Little Help From My Friends” at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, died on Monday at age 70 after battling “small cell lung cancer,” according to a statement issued today by his label, Sony Music.
“’It’s really sad to hear about Joe’s passing,” began the statement from Paul McCartney. “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 Denny Cordell coming round to the studio in Saville 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,” McCartney continued, “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.’”
Ringo Starr posted a statement around 2:30 p.m. ET on his @ringostarrmusic account on Twitter. “Goodbye and God bless to Joe Cocker from one of his friends peace and love,” Ringo wrote.
The singer’s death was announced in a statement issued by his agent last night that was posted by the BBC. “It is with the heaviest hearts we heard that our beloved Joe Cocker passed away last night,” the statement began. “He was without the doubt the greatest rock/soul voice ever to come out of Britain – and remained the same man throughout his life. Hugely talented – a true star – but a kind and humble man and remained the same man throughout his life.”
“With a Little Help From My Friends” was one of the many memorable moments in the 1969 festival, and was a highlight of the feature film. But the song, which peaked at only #68 in 1968, wasn’t his biggest hit on the Billboard charts up through 1990. That honor belonged to “Up Where We Belong,” a 1982 duet with Jennifer Warnes from the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman,” that hit number 1. But “With a Little Help” achieved immortality after it was used as the theme song for the critically acclaimed TV show “The Wonder Years.”
In an interview with Askmen.com, Cocker said his earliest influences were Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. “Then I got hung up on Ray Charles very heavily. I loved Ray’s music and still do.”