Sunday, 28 June 2015

Joe Cocker in the movies

The gravelly voice was unmistakable, partly because some of the time you couldn’t understand what he was saying. But that was the charm of Joe Cocker, who passed away back in December.

He had a long career, when he died at age 70, but for me growing up in the ‘80s, Joe Cocker will always be synonymous with the movies.

“Up Where We Belong”
“An Officer and a Gentleman” was the movie that catapulted Richard Gere to stardom in 1982. He plays a drifter who finds a life flying jets and love with Debra Winger. It also finally achieved recognition for Louis Gossett Junior with a best supporting actor Oscar for his role as a no-nonsense drill sergeant, after being unrecognized for so long.

That same Oscar night, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes were on stage accepting an Oscar of their own, for their balled “Up Where We Belong”. The song had a Canadian connection too, as Buffy St. Marie co-wrote the song.

It demonstrated Cocker’s soulful sound, contrasted sharply with Warnes. When they sang it live on Oscar night, it looked as if Cocker was reaching deep down all the way to his toes for each word.

It would be awhile before I finally did see “An Officer and a Gentleman”. Back then, there were three Pay-TV channels, two that carried commercial-free movies. My brother, who lived in Calgary, had one of them and he taped a bunch of movies off TV, three to a tape. He lent me one of those tapes, which had “An Officer and a Gentleman” on it. I watched it one Saturday night with my mom. I had a VCR by then, so it had to be at least 1986.

“The Edge of a Dream”
The movie “Teachers” came out in 1984, starring Nick Nolte as a burnt-out teacher trying to make a difference. It was also significant because it was Ralph Macchio’s first role after his breakout, iconic performance as Daniel LaRusso in “The Karate Kid”.

The soundtrack was much heralded as well. It featured ZZ Top, Bob Seger, .38 Special and much more. The first big single was the title track, “Teacher, Teacher” by .38 Special, and it was awesome. Mind you I’ve always like .38 Special.

I heard the second single off that soundtrack when I tuned in to “Solid Gold” on Channel 7 on the farm on a Saturday night.

It was called “Edge of a Dream”, and there standing hunched over a mike was Joe Cocker to sing it live.

In so many ways it was much like “Up Where We Belong”. Cocker seemed to dig down deep for every word. That gravelly voice has a certain charm.

When I got my VCR for Christmas in 1985, it came with 50 free movies from Baker's Appliances in Lethbridge. My sister lived in Lethbridge at the time, and came out to the farm every Sunday for noon dinner. She started signing out movies and bringing them out. One of the first was "Teachers".

The hat’s all that stayed on
It would be 1987 when I heard that gravelly voice once more. This time it was in a movie about two people who get into a physical, kinky relationship for a short period of time. The movie was called “9 ½ Weeks” and it starred Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger.

There were some pretty risqué scenes, including one where Basinger kind of strips down. If memory serves, that’s the scene set to the soulful sounds of “You Can Leave Your Hat on.” That’s was pretty much all that did stay on.

Parting thoughts
So much of the 1980s was about movie soundtracks. Every movie had to have one, for better or worse. One of the better balladeers was Joe Cocker. He sang with such heart and emotion, seeming to work hard for every note.

Hopefully now Joe you’re up where you belong.

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