Legendary soulful singer Joe Cocker dies at age 70

British singer Joe Cocker performs AT the Mawazine international music festival World Rythms in Rabat in 2011. -- PHOTO: AFP
British singer Joe Cocker performs AT the Mawazine international music festival World Rythms in Rabat in 2011. -- PHOTO: AFP

Raspy-voiced, Grammy-and-Oscar winning singer Joe Cocker, a Grammy-and-Oscar-winning singer best known for his cover of the Beatles' With A Little Help From My Friends and the ballad You Are So Beautiful, has died, his agent said on Monday. He was 70.

Marshall Arts, the company of Cocker's agent, Mr Barrie Marshall in England, confirmed on Sunday that he had died, the BBC reported. Mr Marshall did not reveal his cause of death.

However, The Yorkshire Post, the singer's hometown newspaper in England, said that Cocker had been battling lung cancer and died in Colorado in the United States , where he had long lived, AFP reported.

In a statement, Mr Marshall called Cocker "without the doubt the greatest rock/soul singer ever to come out of Britain".

Born in Sheffield, England on May 20, 1944, the singer-songwriter's 40 year career, included a string of other hits such as Up Where We Belong, which he wrote and sang for the 1982 Richard Gere film An Officer And A Gentleman in a duet with Jennifer Warnes that won an Oscar for best original song.

Cocker cut his career teeth in the gritty clubs of Sheffield in the 1960s. By 1968, his cover version of With a Little Help From My Friends - with guitar by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page that went Top Ten in England.

But it was his live interpretation of the song at the legendary Woodstock music festival in New York in 1969 that shot him to international stardom. His performance - marked by spastic body movements as he literally spat out the words - sent shivers through crowd of some 400,00 gathered at the three-day event. It also became a highlight of the smash hit concert film of the event released in 1970.

His version of the Beatles' favourite became a hit all over again in 1988 as the theme song of ABC's period comedy-drama The Wonder Years.

Cocker followed the Woodstock appearance as the leader of the Mad Dogs And Englishmen rock tour that featured stars of the day, including Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge, and produced a hit live album and single, another cover of the Box Tops The Letter and Traffic's Feelin' Alright.

Known to be heavy drinker, according to his biography at RollingStone.com, he sometimes forgot the lyrics to songs during live shows, however.

One of Cocker's biggest hits - one that is still heard at weddings to this day - was You Are So Beautiful. It spent 17 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in 1975, peaking at No. 5.

He was also known for the cheeky 1986 hit You Can Leave Your Hat On that was featured in the controversial film 9 1/2 Weeks.

In 2007, Cocker was awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) at Buckingham Palace.

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr wrote on Twitter "Goodbye and God bless to Joe Cocker from one of his friends - peace and love".

Cocker's absence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been seen as a sad omission for years. Billy Joel said he was "amazed" at such a snub during a performance in New York in September at which he voiced regret that Cocker was ill.

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