RIP, Joe Cocker, First Avenue's First Headliner

Here's Joe Cocker's star at First Avenue.

Here's Joe Cocker's star at First Avenue.

The legendary gravel-voiced singer Joe Cocker has died following a battle with small cell lung cancer, the New York Times reports. Known for hits like "You Are So Beautiful" and his version of the Beatles' "A Little Help From My Friends," Cocker had a career that spanned more than 40 years. He was 70.

The Sheffield, England, vocalist kicked off one of the great Twin Cities venue stories with a Minneapolis performance on April 3, 1970. He was the first headlining performer at the building now called First Avenue, and his name is celebrated with a star at the club commemorating the night.
[jump] Gimme Noise uncovered the history of that night a few years back:
According to the April 4, 1970, edition of the Minneapolis Tribune, "not since the truck drivers' strike of 1934 is it likely that there has been such excitement, such chaos, such congestion, such noise just off Hennepin Av. as there was Friday night."

The account, which later calls the space Fillmore Upper Midwest, says that carpeting and other interior decorations weren't yet installed, but the old bus station was packed with sun-tanned men and women wearing expensive hippie garb by the time Cocker hit the stage just after 8 p.m.

The $10 tables were full, the $4 standing room was reserved for those willing fight for it, and the initial stocking of booze was used up by showtime.

A long-haired Cocker worked hard on a stage filled with 40 people, "singing like a black man" and dancing "like a spastic," and the two sets had the feel of a circus sideshow. From day one, this club had its magnetic persona established.
Today, Cocker will be remembered as an adult-contemporary and classic-rock darling who continued working up to the present with arena tours, albums, and that heart-ripping voice.

His agent Barrie Marshall said in a statement: "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."


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