Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song,
I will try not sing out of key.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends.
Joe Cocker died yesterday. The English rocker was 70, and while he boasted a slew of modest hits throughout his career, he will undoubtedly be remembered by is his cover of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
Many people, like me, were introduced to the song because of The Wonder Years, which featured it in its opening sequence. In fact, a lot of people probably learned Cocker’s version before they even knew it was a Beatles song first.
What makes a cover so good, though, is when you hear it and think, “Why was the song never made this way to begin with?”
Even Paul McCartney said that Cocker’s version was “mind blowing,” and that Cocker took the song to a place he never thought it was capable of going.
Until yesterday, upon reading articles about Cocker, I never knew that he became a sensation almost overnight directly because of that song, after he sang it at Woodstock in 1969. That was when he really introduced himself to the world.
So I couldn’t help but look up the performance myself, of a 25-year-old Cocker bearing his soul to millions of people in upstate New York 45 years ago, taking a familiar song and doing something completely different to it.
Here it is:
Watching it gave me goosebumps. God knows what drugs he was probably on at the time. But seeing the passion and emotion that’s entrenched in every lyric, the way Cocker just gets lost in the music, and how the crowd responded to it, is truly mesmerizing.
And it made me think. The world you could use some of that right now.
I don’t even know exactly what “that” is. But whatever it is, we can use it.
Our nation is in a very tenuous state right now. No one’s forgotten — nor will they soon forget — the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Protests are still happening. And these latest senseless murders of two NYPD officers have created a mood in New York City that hasn’t existed in quite some time. People are scared. And rightfully so.
So watching Cocker’s heartfelt, soul-wrenching performance reminded of something. The idea of Woodstock was to promote peace and love. And harmony.
It’s why we’re all here to begin with. To have shared experiences. And music does that.
I’m not trying to diminish the gravity of recent events by saying everything can be simply cured by a rock concert, but I think that there is something to be learned, and more important, remembered, from those eight minutes when Joe Cocker sang his heart out.
We can all get by, with just a little help from our friends.