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Dir. John Edgington, US, 2017, 90mins

LONDON PREMIERE + Director Q&A, featuring Vic Cocker and music producer Glyn Johns

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This feature-length documentary captures the turbulent life and unique talent of Joe Cocker, who died of cancer at 70 in 2014. Rock music’s most incendiary white soul singer, he had a voice that could rage, bellow, rasp, screech, or be – if circumstances demanded – unexpectedly yearning and vulnerable, and he could take any song and make it his own. 

A gas fitter from the hard-drinking back streets of Sheffield, in the early 1960s Cocker sang in the city’s pubs in the style of his hero Ray Charles. He was catapulted to stardom at Woodstock in 1969 with his legendary performance of The Beatles’ “A Little Help from My Friends”, and his 1970 “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” tour of America is now seen as a milestone in rock history. But as his stardom grew, pressures mounted. In the 1970s, his inner demons nearly killed him. 

His personal battles were sometimes played out in plain sight. At a key comeback gig after going off-radar, songwriting legend Jimmy Webb recalls, a brandy bottle-wielding Cocker sabotaged his own performance. Yet despite his inability to refuse drink or drugs, whenever it seemed he had hit rock bottom he conjured up more of what singer Rita Coolidge called his “god-given talent”. With chart hits in the 1980s, never-ending tours in the 1990s and a triumphant performance at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert in 2002, Cocker was responsible for one of the great comeback stories in rock history.

Doc’n Roll Film Festival is supported by the BFI using funds from the National Lottery to grow audience appetite and enjoyment for a wide range of independent British and international films.