Joe Cocker, the longtime singer of hits likes “You Are So Beautiful” and “When a Man Loves a Woman” has died at age 70.
Cocker was confirmed dead by his agent Barrie Marshall, according to the BBC. “It will be impossible to fill the space he leaves in our hearts,” Marshall said.
The Associated Press reported that Cocker died of lung cancer.
Marshall added that “he was without the doubt the greatest rock/soul voice ever to come out of Britain- and remained the same man throughout his life.” He continued: “Hugely talented, a true star, but a kind and humble man who loved to perform. Anyone who ever saw him live will never forget him.”
Cocker, a song interpreter more than a songwriter, first became known through his hit cover of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and a characteristically manic performance at the first Woodstock festival in 1969. His raucous “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” tour of 1970 produced a film and a recording that went gold.
He had a top 10 hit in 1975 on the aching ballad “You Are So Beautiful,” with his voice cracking on the final emotional note and won his first Grammy Award in 1983 for his “Up Where We Belong” duet with Jennifer Warnes, which was the theme of the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
Cocker, who received an Order of the British Empire in 2011 for his contribution to music, released 40 albums and continued to tour after the hits dried up.
He was known for an intense, twitchy stage presence where his arms would flail and face contort as he wrung notes from his raspy voice. When he performed on “Saturday Night Live” in 1976, Belushi parodied him onstage, exaggerating his movements by flipping to the ground. It was a clip seen as widely as Cocker’s own performances.
Years later, Cocker told The Associated Press’ Mary Campbell that he was playing an imaginary piano and air guitar while singing — the elements that contributed to this unique style.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.