His early tours — particularly “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” in 1970, which was documented in a live album and film of the same name — were rowdy affairs, awash in both drugs and the artistic excesses of the era. The sprawling “Mad Dogs” entourage included not only more than 30 musicians, among them the keyboardist and songwriter Leon Russell and the drummer Jim Keltner, but also spouses, babies and pets.
At the same time, Mr. Cocker’s onstage contortions had, for better or worse, become his signature. John Belushi performed a sendup on “Saturday Night Live” in 1975 that ended with his convulsing on the floor; the next year Mr. Cocker performed Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright” on the show, joined by Mr. Belushi in imitation.
Asked about his mannerisms in an interview last year with The Guardian, Mr. Cocker said that they “came with my frustration at having never played guitar or piano.” He added: “It’s just a way of trying to get feeling out. I get excited, and it all comes through my body.”
I can’t think of any better example of all that than this version of “Cry Me A River”, which converted a slow, sultry tune into… well, something very different.
This death shit’s for the birds, by the way. Sigh.