Sunday, December 30, 2007

With A Little Help From My Friends, Joe Cocker (1969)

Could The Wonder Years have chosen a more appropriate song to set the stage for a show about teenage angst and the dueling forces of hope and loss in the 60's?

Arguably the most superior cover version ever recorded, Joe Cocker teamed up with a bevy of top-flight musicians including his "brilliant" (according to Eric Clapton) keyboard player Chris Stainton, Jimmy Page on guitar, Steve Winwood on organ and Procol Harum's B.J. Wilson on drums for a radical reworking of the Beatles' whimsical ode to friendship - and to all the other things people will forever debate.

According to an item at Cocker's web site Life magazine called Joe "The voice of all those blind criers and crazy beggars and maimed men who summon up a strength we'll never know to bawl out their souls in the streets." I won't even try to top that description; what drew me to this song was that very unfettered unleashing of emotion; it was well and truly extraordinary.

What is also extraordinary is the song's elasticity - no matter your circumstances, it resonated with that part of anyone's soul that was needy and flailing about. Cocker's much-remarked-upon unrestrained gyrations in his performances were often the butt of jokes, but the joke may be on us - today he is married to the same woman, still records and tours, and seems the picture of health and normalcy.

1 comment:

J said...

I think it's rare for a cover to surpass the original, but for sure, this one does. Until very recently, this was my favorite cover of all time.