Joe Cocker, the British blues-rock singer known for his unmistakable, gravelly voice, wild stage presence during live performances, and soulful covers of popular rock songs — most notably his rearrangement of The Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends," which reached No.1 in the U.K. in 1968 (though anyone born after 1980 probably first encountered it as the theme to The Wonder Years) —
died today at age 70 after a battle with lung cancer, his publicist confirmed to BBC News
Born in Sheffield in 1944, Cocker began singing at age 12 and played in bands throughout college. At the helm of the Grease Band, he embarked on his first U.S. tour, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
and playing Woodstock in 1969. The following year, after dissolving that band, he formed a new group, allegedly to fulfill contractual obligations for another U.S. tour. Thus began the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, a marathon at sprint-pace through 48 cities with 30 musicians, including band leader Leon Russell, three drummers, and highlighting backup singers Rita Coolidge and Claudia Lennear on vocals — a crew that drummer Jim Keltner later described as "a big wild, party."