Singing FromTthe Floor

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authourised biography of joe cocker
Joe Cocker: the Authorised Biography
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Over The Wall

Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker - The Authorised Biography details his amazing roller-coaster rock'n'roll ride from his early days in Sheffield to his ranch in Colorado. Painstakingly researched, fast paced, funny and tragic in turn, it is an uplifting tale of survival, of an ordinary man thrust into the spotlight, a man who believed in himself when no one else did.

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JP Bean: “The first time I saw Joe Cocker live was in 1965 at a youth club dance in St Oswald’s Church Hall, Abbeydale Road in Sheffield. My memory of that long-ago night is one of raw excitement, of Joe teetering on the edge of the stage, singing and playing the harmonica his Big Blues Band.

The idea to write a biography came in 1986, after seeing Joe at Hammersmith Odeon. Here was man who’d seen all the highs and lows of rock ‘n’ roll yet no one had ever written a biography. Later on he told me one or two writers had tried but never got it done. We met at the Crosspool Tavern in Sheffield, through Ray Stuart, a DJ at Radio Hallam, and when I told Joe - who was wearing a flat cap at the time - what I wanted to do he said immediately “It’s all right with me, love, but I don’t get back here very often.” So I went on the road with him in Germany in 1987 and ’88 and met up with him a few times in Britain, as I put the book together over the next couple of years.

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Backstage at the Waldebuhne, Berlin - June 1987 [Photo: Heide Woicke]

Besides extensive talks with Joe, the book involved a lot of research. I interviewed over a hundred people who had known him through his life – family, friends, musicians, managers, roadies, fans, anybody with a story to tell. It was amazing how helpful people were and only two turned me down – an ex-girlfriend of Joe’s and Leon Russell. 

The book was first published in 1990 and Joe wrote a foreword. It should have done much better than it did, but the UK publisher didn’t push it and a legal problem delayed publication. It did better in Germany where there were two separate translated editions.

Over the years Joe and I kept in touch. Soon after the book first came out his management changed and the new team – Roger Davies and Ray Neapolitan - were very good and got me quite a bit of work doing notes for re-issued CDs, a tour programme and as consultant for the documentary ‘Have A Little Faith’. That took me to America in 1994, to interview Joe in Colorado and Ray Charles in Los Angeles.

In the summer of 2002 I was in Frankfurt with a film crew, interviewing Joe yet again and afterwards we talked about revising and updating the biography. Virgin Books were interested, so I brought it up to date, Joe wrote another foreword and the new version was published in 2003 – Joe Cocker – the Authorised Biography. It got some excellent reviews in Mojo, Uncut, Void, Classic Rock, Record Collector, etc.

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With Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie - the world's most recorded drummer - & Joe Cocker. London 2002

Writing Joe Cocker’s biography got me about the world a bit. I have met some amazing people and made many friends. A book like that can feel a bit strange - spending so much time looking hard at another person’s life – but Joe’s book was certainly the most ‘sociable’ book I’ve done.”

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With Ray Neapolitan and Joe Cocker, Sheffield Arena Dec 2007.