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Video: Joe Cocker at Woodstock: “With a Little Help From My Friends”

July 19, 2013

This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week is a video that I stumbled across while flipping through the channels late last Saturday night. I almost never channel surf anymore, with everything available on DVR or on demand, but it was late, I was not with my own beloved TiVo and I didn’t even know the how to match the channel numbers and stations – I was lost at sea with a remote in my hand. So like we used to do way way back in 2000 or so, I scrolled through the guide until pausing on some unedited Woodstock coverage. Not a documentary or a movie, just film of the festival. As luck would have it, at that moment on my TV screen, the man on stage was getting ready to put on possibly the greatest 8 minute performance that ever was or ever will be. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider the circumstances: this was the original Woodstock, an unexpected but powerful performer, a legendary Beatles song and, moments later, the show would come to a screeching halt due to incredible thunderstorms. This moment – Joe Cocker‘s frenzied singing of “With a Little Help From My Friends” – has been called “so audibly and visually stimulating that it listed in the same category as seeing Hendrix and Joplin play.” For that brief period of time in the very late 1960’s, Cocker rocked as hard as anyone ever has, and this video is living proof. Cocker was pretty much washed up as a performer just a few years later – he comes in at an underwhelming #97 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 greatest singers of all time – but this performance is forever remembered in rock and roll history. Don’t take my word for it though, watch it yourself:

The ’60s were truly an incredible time. In reading up just about that performance, I also came across the original Rolling Stone review of Cocker’s first album, With A Little Help From My Friends, from August 1969. Here the first paragraph:

Joe Cocker and the Grease Band were ending a performance they gave recently at the Whiskey in Los Angeles. As they went into their explosive version of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” a nubile young admirer, apparently driven wild by Cocker’s amazing voice and insane spastic contortions, stationed herself on her back between Cocker’s legs and, reaching up, began to work the Cocker cock with considerable fervor. Moments later Joe delivered the scream of his career.

Well then. I don’t imagine we’ll be reading that in any album review written in 2013.

And that’s what’s making me happy this week.

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