Vintage performance footage and Joe Cocker’s self-effacing commentary make this half-hour profile on the singer worth watching, as the virtue-extolling is kept to a minimum while giving equal time to both influences and foibles.
Program opens with Cocker’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” where the singer and the late John Belushi face off in a duet. It was Belushi’s impersonation, bordering on parody, that impressed Cocker enough to agree to appear on the show.
We also learn that Cocker’s aides-de-camp thought Belushi’s earlier portrayals were disgusting and actually were afraid to show the artist a tape of them.
Cocker reminisces about his club dates in the ’50s and ’60s where he would earn enough “to get a few pints”–an “admittedly happy existence,” he informs.
But the recent concert clips and the much-seen-before Woodstock footage show how little Cocker’s stage persona has changed over the years. One gets the feeling that the singer’s sideburn length and weight are the only variables in his more than 30-year career.
While Cocker tells us he spent the early ’70s “taking a lot of substances,” he doesn’t amplify on his rationale for the drug abuse. Excesses of the ’60s notwithstanding, many such statements are made by Cocker without any follow-up.
Cocker’s prophetic performance of “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today” from the 1982 Grammy Awards is portrayed as the artist’s high-water mark, as the viewers quickly get fed a kinder and gentler Cocker, clad in a suit and growling out more recent material, including cuts from his latest Capitol disc “Night Calls.”
A series of videos from the album plus the segment’s highlight–a concert performance of a roaring, ballsy version of Gary Wright’s 1972 hit “Love Is Alive”–successfully communicates that Cocker can still rock, can still please a crowd as he puts his spin on other artists’ material.