Joe Cocker's 10 best songs ever, ranked

11 July 2022, 17:25 | Updated: 14 August 2023, 14:36

Joe Cocker
Joe Cocker. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Joe Cocker was one of the most respected singers of his generation.

Known for his gritty voice and unique stage presence, Joe Cocker recorded 22 studio albums during his lifetime.

Possessing one of the most distinguishable singing voices of all time, Joe Cocker's career spanned six decades before his death in 2014.

Here are his very best songs to get you started:

  1. Love Lives On

    Joe Cocker - Love Lives On (1987)

    Joe Cocker recorded this lovely little '80s ballad for, of all things, the end credits of Harry and the Hendersons in 1987.

    We're not quite sure how it fits into a film about a loveable Bigfoot, but they were probably hoping to repeat that sweet 'Up Where We Belong' magic.

  2. Feeling Alright

    Joe Cocker "Feelin' Alright" on The Ed Sullivan Show

    '60s folk-rock band Traffic first recorded this song, before Joe Cocker's cover became a hit in the States in 1969.

    Huey Lewis later recorded a cover version for the 2000 film Duets, and then Huey and Joe teamed up for a duet on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2012.

  3. Woman to Woman

    JOE COCKER Woman To Woman A&M RECORDS 1972

    This blues rock song was taken from Joe Cocker's 1972 self-titled album.

    You may recognise the song's main riff, as it has been sampled by various songs over the years, most nostably on 2Pac's 'California Love' in 1996.

  4. Cry Me a River

    Joe Cocker - Cry Me A River

    Everyone from Julie London to Michael Buble has recorded this standard pop song over the decades, but Joe Cocker's version is sorely underrated.

    Joe brought his rocky-bluesy version out in 1970, and it really showcases his talents for how to transform a song.

  5. Unchain My Heart

    Joe Cocker - Unchain My Heart 2002 Live Video

    Ray Charles recorded this song first back in 1961, and it was another genius move to cover it from Joe.

    Released in 1987 on the album of the same name, it was re-released in 1992 and gave him a UK top 20 hit.

  6. Delta Lady

    Joe Cocker - Delta Lady (1969)

    Written by Leon Russell, Joe recorded this soul rock song for his second album, Joe Cocker!, in 1969.

    It gave Joe a top 10 hit in the UK.

  7. You Can Leave Your Hat On

    Joe Cocker - You Can Leave Your Hat On (Official Video) HD

    Randy Newman wrote this saucy song, which was later covered by Joe Cocker for the 1986 film 9½ Weeks during the famous striptease scene.

    It had a new lease of life when it was covered again, this time by Sir Tom Jones, in a rather different striptease scene from The Full Monty.

  8. You Are So Beautiful

    Joe Cocker - You are so beautiful (nearly unplugged)

    Billy Preston first recorded and co-wrote this song in 1974, but it was Joe Cocker's gritty version of the ballad that became a massive hit.

    Preston wrote the song about his mother, who worked as a stage actress. His friend Sam Moore later said that after assuming it was a standard love song, Preston had been appalled to learn that Moore was using the song as a means to attract women each time he sang it in concert.

    Despite the song's initial inspiration, the song has gone on to become a love song standard, with Joe's version often appearing on romantic compilations.

  9. Up Where We Belong (with Jennifer Warnes)

    Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes - Up where we belong 1983

    Five years before she sang with Bill Medley on Dirty Dancing's 'Time of My Life', Jennifer Warnes teamed up with Joe Cocker on another movie anthem.

    In 1982, the duo recorded the song for the climactic scene for An Officer and a Gentleman (who can forget Richard Gere in that uniform?).

    Warnes had suggested Joe for the song, saying that he had been a fan since she was a teenager: "I was so moved, I was hollering out loud with joy, jumping up and down ... After a difficult battle with drugs and alcohol, Joe was in total command once again. I knew at that moment that I would sing with Joe."

  10. With a Little Help from My Friends

    JOE COCKER With A Little Help From My Friends 1969 Woodstock

    You had to be brave to record a cover version of The Beatles back when they were still around, and hope that it worked.

    Joe Cocker produced quite possibly the greatest cover version of all time, when he took the Ringo Starr-led track - one of the more simple Beatles efforts - and transform it into a soul and blues anthem.

    It's Joe Cocker at his absolute peak, featured Jimmy Page on guitar, and even Paul McCartney loved it, saying: "It was just mind-blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful for him for doing that."

    It was also featured in the iconic Woodstock film about the festival, and was later the theme tune for The Wonder Years.